The Impact of Net Neutrality Changes on Local Governments

What is Net Neutrality?
The idea, principle, or requirement that Internet service providers should or must treat all Internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source, or destination. – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Why is Net Neutrality an issue?
Despite public opposition, the Federal Communications Commission voted to rescind rules intended to ensure net neutrality in December of 2017. The rules prevented the prioritization of content by Internet providers and is expected to benefit telecommunications companies.

What are the options?
There now appears to be interest in developing methods of accessing the Internet without requiring the centralized services of corporate ISPs by developing community- based locally owned Internet service. The service allows users in a “neighborhood” to share and Internet connection at no charge without discriminating or blocking content.

Another option is municipal broadband, owned and operated by local government, mimicking the Internet access provided by corporate ISPs, yet more responsive to customers on their issues. Caution must be exercised as these efforts can lose money or result in failure with political repercussions. In addition, several states have laws that ban municipal broadband. New Jersey is NOT one of them.

The New Jersey Office of Information Technology (NJOIT) has created a broadband map to support and expand broadband access and provide businesses and consumers with relevant information needed to make decisions related to high speed Internet options.

What does it have to do with local government?
Municipal broadband service is owned and operated by local government and essentially mimics the Internet access provided by corporate ISPs. Because they are locally owned, they are more responsive to customers on issues, including net neutrality.

Considerations
Is there a need and will there be public support for the proposal?
Who in the community can directly benefit- contractors, local IT consultants? What are the costs of building, equipment, and operation?
Will the politics of the municipality allow moving forward with the project? Is grant funding or foundation money available?
Is it more cost efficient to operate local broadband?
Is it a service that taxpayers deserve?

Caveat
Historically, most local governments that have tried municipal broadband have failed. The build-out cost and the maintenance/support has been prohibitive. Muni broadband is often seen as an integral part of the Smart Cities initiative.