An increasing number of Americans are factoring in internet service costs and access when considering where to move. In order to help retain and attract residents, small cities across the country have created their own municipal broadband service.
If you’re considering moving, check out this list of cities with municipal internet to find out if affordable internet could be in the cards for you.
What is municipal broadband?
Municipal broadband refers to internet services provided partially or fully by local governments. The most common example is free public Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the city. However, in recent years, many cities have started to take a look at how they can offer home internet as a utility service.
So, why don’t all communities offer municipal broadband?
For one, 26 states have bans or restrictions against municipal broadband after lobbying by the cable internet industry. Additionally, it’s expensive to invest in and operate a high-speed internet network, especially if one doesn’t yet exist.
However, municipalities have started pushing on bans and are finding new ways to invest in improved infrastructure. In 2019, for instance, Arkansas legislators unanimously overturned a previous legislative ban that now allows local governments to build their own municipal broadband infrastructure.
Late in 2018, Charlemont, Mass., rejected an offer from Comcast to set up a broadband network for $450,000 and instead will build their own $1.4 million town-owned fiber network (previously approved by town voters in 2015). Why? They wanted to own their own infrastructure — even if that means a higher up-front cost — because it would save residents money over the long-term.
So, where can you go if you want FCC classified high-speed internet for $45 or less? Check out this list of small cities offering their own municipal broadband.
Cities that currently offer discounted or cheap internet
Stevenson’s fiber internet company, North Alabama Electric Cooperative, offers four internet plans with speeds ranging from 30 Mbps to 1 Gig. The cheapest plan is $35/mo. for 30 Mbps.
This Colorado town of a little more than 94,000 offers a 100% community-owned and community-based broadband option known as NextLight Internet with speeds of either 25 Mbps for $39.95/mo. or 1 Gbps for $69.95/mo.
Both plans come with a symmetrical connection, meaning they have the same upload and download speeds. Gigabit customers who have had service for more than 12 consecutive months qualify for a Loyalty Member rate of $59.95/mo.
San Luis Valley, CO
The municipal fiber optic company in San Luis Valley, CO, called Ciello, offers high-speed internet starting at $39.95/mo. for 25 Mbps. Cielo also offers 50 Mbps, 100 and 1 Gig plans.
OptiLink is the fiber optic municipal provider in Dalton, GA. The local providers offer 100 Mbps for $39.95/mo. If you bundle services (does not include the cost of other services) or $43.95/mo. if you do not bundle services. With OptiLink, you have the option to choose from 100 Mbps, 250 Mbps and 1 Gig plans.
Cedar Falls, IA
FiberHome Broadband offers fiber optic municipal internet service in Cedar Falls, IA. FiberHome Broadband offers some of the fastest internet speeds in the country. Plans start at $45.50/mo. for 250 Mbps and plans reach all the way up to 10 Gig speeds. Prices are $5 to $10/mo. more expensive in rural areas than in urban areas of Cedar Falls.
Established in 2010, Highland Communication Services offers residents eight different internet plan options with speeds ranging from 20 Mbps to 1 Gbps. Prices start at $24.95/mo. and discounts are offered on double-play and triple-play bundles that include TV and/or home phone.
On June 4, 2019, Mayor Sean Coletti tweeted that Ammon Fiber’s open access system was offering 15 Mbps (upload and download) for $1.88/mo. — the lowest they’ve ever offered it. Just a day later, he said another company is now offering the same speed for free in Ammon. Residents can also opt to upgrade to either 500 Mbps for $9.98/mo. or gigabit internet for $9.99/mo.
Ammon is paying for the service through municipal bonds and does charge residents a fee to extend the fiber network to their home as well as a monthly maintenance fee totaling $39/mo.
Bardstown Cable is a municipal cable company located in Bardstown, KY. Broadband speeds start at $32.80/mo. for 50 Mbps when you bundle services (phone or TV costs are not included in this price) and costs $36.25/mo. for 50 Mbps when you do not bundle. Although 25 Mbps is the least expensive package that reaches broadband speeds, Bardstown Cable offers speeds ranging from 10 Mbps to 250 Mbps.
As a 100% community-owned fiber-optic network, LUS Fiber offers internet plans ranging from 3 Mbps to 10,000 Mbps (10 Gbps) starting at $19.95/mo. The catch is that you have to either bundle with other services and/or sign an agreement to get low prices. For instance, when you bundle, you get 150 Mbps for only $37/mo.
Taunton’s Municipal Lighting Plant offers fiber optic internet in Taunton, MA. The company offers two internet plans. The cheapest plan is 50 Mbps for $34.95/mo. and fastest plan is 1 Gig for $69.95/mo.
The Michigan town of more than 1,600 residents offers fiber internet of 30 Mbps (upload and download) for $35/mo., plus an additional $125 one-time fee for standard installation. Residents can also choose from other plans including 50 Mbps, 100 Mbps or 1 Gbps.
With nearly 14,000 residents, this Minnesota town offers community members 1 Gbps internet for $35.95/mo. with symmetrical upload and download speeds. While no router is needed, residents must get a FiberCenter device for $15.95/mo. to access the FiberNet internet.
Marshall fiber internet offers extremely affordable deals. Its cheapest high-speed internet plans start at $30/mo. For 50 Mbps. However, for just an additional $15/mo., you can get 150 Mbps. Max speeds available are 450 Mbps.
Wilson’s municipal fiber internet company is called Greenlight Community Broadband. Greenlight’s cheapest plan is $39.95/mo. for 50 Mbps; however, you also can opt for 300 Mbps or 1 Gig speeds for a little extra each month.
The City of Wadsworth Electric & Communications Dept. is the municipal cable internet provider in Wadsworth, OH. High-speed internet plans start at $39/mo. for 60 Mbps. However, the cheapest plan is $25/mo. for 20 Mbps. Max speeds can reach 500 Mbps.
In 2003, this city began offering SandyNet, an internet service provider (ISP) “owned by the people of Sandy and operated as a public service” by the city. SandyNet is a non-profit utility and operates on a break-even basis.
This allows the city to offer fiber-optic internet service of 300 Mbps (upload and download) for $41.95/mo. with no contracts or data caps. Residents can also choose to upgrade to Gigabit internet for $59.95/mo. Additionally, the city offers rural wireless to parts of the greater Sandy area. All plans require a $100 installation fee.
Residents in Morristown, Tenn., can get a fiber optic internet connection of 250 Mbps (upload and download) for $44.95/mo. with options to also choose 500 Mbps, 750 Mbps or 1 Gbps. Residents can also opt to bundle their internet with TV starting at $23.95/mo. for 26 channels and/or phone services for $32.95/mo.
This Tennessee town of 7,600 residents offers three internet plans with speeds ranging from 60 Mbps to 150 Mbps on a fiber optic network. Their bronze plan starts at $39.55/mo. and offers speeds of 60 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload.
The internet company, Bandera Fiber, located in Bandera, TX offers high-speed plans starting at $39.99/mo. for 25 Mbps. Bandera also offers 75 Mbps, 150 Mbps, 300 Mbps and 1 Gig fiber plans.
Why should local governments consider municipal broadband?
Despite the large upfront costs, a 2018 study by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University found that “most community-owned [fiber-to-the-home] networks charged less and offered prices that were clear and unchanging, whereas private ISPs typically charged initial low promotional or ‘teaser’ rates that later sharply rose, usually after 12 months.”
In 23 of the 27 markets where researchers could make direct comparisons, they found that prices for community-owned networks were between 2.9% and 50% cheaper than the lowest-cost service from a private ISP.
Additionally, a 2017 Pew Research Center study found there’s significant public support for municipal broadband options. Of the 4,000 American adults surveyed, 70% believe “local governments should be able to build their own broadband networks if existing services in the area are either too expensive or not good enough.”
Written by:Samantha Cossick
Contributor, Former Senior Content Strategist
Samantha is a key contributor to Allconnect covering broadband services. She graduated with a journalism degree from West Virginia University and spearheaded the growth of Allconnect’s Resource Center. Prior to … Read more
Edited by:Trey Paul
Editor, Broadband Content
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