Governments Should Neither Subsidize nor Operate Broadband Networks to Compete with Commercial Ones

June 1, 2011

NCTA, the industry association of America's cable companies, claims that the U.S. Rural Utility Service mistakenly funded projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in areas that were already served by one or more broadband providers. RUS maintains the grants are defensible because existing broadband services in the areas were inadequate to support rural economic development. Meanwhile, the state of North Carolina is considering a bill that would restrict the ability of municipalities to use public funding to build broadband networks in markets that are already served by commercial providers; supporters of municipal networks maintain that existing broadband services are often inadequate in rural areas. ITIF hosts an Oxford-style debate on these controversies and, of course, elucidation on terms such as “served” and “unserved.”