International approaches to municipal broadband

Municipal broadband is considered by many as a chance for rural communities to keep up with the pack on Internet access. But how municipalities provide their service varies widely across the globe. This is great for Canadians, who can choose which method suits their needs from a worldwide catalogue of municipal broadband models.

Municipally-Owned Fibre Networks

Chattanooga, Tennessee, made the decision in 2007 to take the local economy into its own hands. This once average post-industrial city was one of the first to offer 1 Gbps Internet speeds after building a next-generation fibre optic network. The “Chattanooga Gig,” as the fibre grid has been dubbed, offers massive bandwidth allowance and improved accessibility to residents and businesses.

The choice to implement municipal broadband was a strategic move by Chattanooga to bring the city into the 21st century. As a response to dying industry and the push to evolve as a city, the Electric Power Board began installing fibre-to-the-premises; this has since proven to be one of the most influential projects in Chattanooga’s history. Improved Internet access has been a draw for outside companies to relocate to the city, leading to the growth of Chattanooga’s new tech sector and revitalizing the economy.

Open Access

Amsterdam, Netherlands — much like Chattanooga — saw fibre optics as a way to attract knowledge-based enterprise to the area. CityNet fibre cables have been wired to homes and businesses by the city, but the network itself is “open access”. Any Internet service provider, indie or established, has an equal opportunity to use the network’s infrastructure. In a market where large telecom providers often have the upper hand, giving an edge to independent providers boosts healthy competition and results in better service for everyone. This approach takes retail Internet sales off of the municipality’s shoulders and allows them to focus on wholesale to ISPs, who in turn provide service to customers.

Broadband as a Utility

Sandy, Oregon is home to the “$60 Gig.” The municipality provides SandyNet, its broadband service, as a public utility. The cost of accessing this fibre network starts at $40 per month for 100 Mbps, and only $60 for an entire gigabit.

SandyNet ensures that their connections are accessible and affordable, all while highlighting the importance of the Internet to citizens in the digital age. Fibre has been woven into the city’s 40-year growth plan; wherever Sandy expands, fibre will soon follow, as the municipality considers broadband access to be as vital as electricity.

Examples Across the Globe

With proper planning, a municipal broadband project is no gamble. We have seen these networks thrive around the world in both small communities and booming metropolitan cities. Regardless of a municipality’s location or size, a fast Internet connection is a necessity in the 21st century. Below are several international examples of municipal broadband networks: