municipal broadband, digital divide, rural infrastructure, public policy, economic development


The venerable concept of universal service crucial to municipal utility operations may be the key to solving a digital-age challenge. Many rural Americans face persistent inequities in broadband Internet access, as low population density limits return on infrastructure investment. However, municipal broadband networks (MBNs) have already gained success at fostering economic growth, enhancing educational opportunities, and furthering social equity in places such as Chanute, KS and Chattanooga, TN. Municipalities are uniquely well-positioned to provide broadband due to their existing right-of-way assets and experience in providing utility services. Just as the 1930s-era Rural Electrification Administration programs helped double the number of farms receiving electricity in just five years, today, municipal broadband networks (MBNs) could meet the education, health, and economic development needs of 21st-century communities. Rather than shutting out private providers, they create choice that stimulates marketplace competition. This research identifies what challenges face municipal broadband adoption, how these challenges vary based on unique local conditions, and how informed management practices can help overcome them. Using an online survey with pre-coded and open-ended questions, this research collects data from 38 managers in Kansas communities, 2 with and 36 without MBNs. These results help illustrate the benefits of and barriers to municipal broadband, and disseminate best practices in utility management. Specifically, this research focuses on the perceived incentives and disincentives of MBN implementation, and how these shape short-term and long-term implementation choices at the urban and rural scales. This project could help communities power a new generation of prosperity by implementing more efficient, equitable, and effective information systems

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.