We as a nation of citizens have always relied on our local cities and governments to provide us with some basic essential services for living and thriving within our communities.  Such services include public access to roads, schools, electricity, police/fire safety, water & sewage, and new to the list in many areas of the county, broadband services.   It’s no secret that in today’s day, and age the internet has not only become a major part of our culture, it has become an indispensable service that we cannot live without.

The unfortunate fact is that while we live in a society where broadband access is essential to our daily lives there are many that live in this country who are either severely underserved or have no access to any type of data services today.  This is where many municipalities are stepping in to better the lives of their community, by deploying state of the art broadband networks. These networks can offer a high-speed service at reasonable prices to their citizens who are either underserved or have been taken advantage of by the ISP in which services them and has no competition.

From big cities to rural America, municipalities have entered into the arena of providing services to their constituents.  For example, it is unbelievable that cities such as Detroit, Michigan there is so many who either don’t subscribe or have inadequate access to any type of broadband services.  According to the '2013 American Community Survey', 56.9% of Detroit had no subscription to broadband services while a staggering 39.9% had no internet access available to them at all.

In rural municipalities the reality is just as devastating due to a lack of infrastructure and/or lack of competition.  For years, the Tier 1 service providers have had a solid hold on a lot of these rural areas with little to no competition to keep network viability and broadband offerings in check.  Also the fact that material and construction costs to install the miles of fiber cable required to connect smaller populated communities can prove to be financially overwhelming to any ISP looking to serve the area.  To combat this issue, municipalities have started to build their own networks by using various government grants. They will either act as the service provider themselves, or enable an open access network with the idea that it will encourage various ISPs (and jobs) to come into the area. Then they will connect into the municipal network for the purpose of offering competitive services.

This is exactly what Oconee County in South Carolina has done.  Before deploying their own open access network, the county’s serving areas only had one predominate ISP. Providing no more than 6 Mbps to just one-third of its residence.  Since their open network was successfully turned up in 2013 they have brought in 6 additional ISPs, with more on the verge of connecting. Those ISP’s are now offering competitive packages for residential services topping 30 Mbps. All while reaching into areas within the county that previously had no access to any type of bandwidth services.  Besides bringing suitable bandwidth to county residences and businesses, they have also enjoyed seeing the advantages of this network spill into the Oconee County School System. The school system has since started capitalizing on such Federal programs such as E-Rate due to the high bandwidth each school now has access to.  This is all in thanks to the high speed network they have built for the Citizens of Oconee County, which was started by Federal grants.

Having the ability to offer broadband services to the underserved communities within a municipality, these local governments are also seeing advantages in deploying their own networks. Some of the advantages are the advancement of public services within a community to include improved Police, Fire & EMS data analysis and communications, minimizing power outages, improved video surveillance, and increased traffic efficiency.  Besides allowing the municipality to function more efficiently, these networks continue to encourage economic development within its borders. That leads to the creation of jobs not only within the municipality themselves, but also in the private sector.  Businesses start to grow in direct response to having more efficient revenue generating tools at their fingertips. Which of course, the growth requires a very healthy and robust connection to the outside marketplace.

It’s really no wonder why we are seeing the communities we live, work, and play in start to make the logical decision to move into the world of broadband access for the betterment of those they have sworn to serve.