The following Letter to the Editor was written by former Bluegrass Institute/Koch summer intern Elaina Waters and published in Saturday’s Lexington Herald-Leader. It offers a free-market perspective on government-owned broadband networks. For more on this issue, check out this recent Bluegrass Beacon column on why Lexington’s proposal to build and operate a government-owned broadband network is not in the best interests of taxpayers.
I vehemently disagree with your March editorial (“Lexington looking to a faster future”), which applauds city leaders for taking steps to build a city-owned broadband system. Your editorial argues broadband should be treated as a utility, a service government should provide.
You don’t mention that 20 years ago when President Bill Clinton and Republicans in Congress wrote our federal telecommunications law they made it clear the nation’s broadband system shouldn’t be run by the government.
They argued a hands-off approach would allow broadband to flourish. They were right. In the last two decades, private companies have invested more than $1.3 trillion in infrastructure and, as a result, more than 98 percent of Americans have high-speed broadband access. Prices have fallen and speeds keep improving.
The editorial also fails to mention how costly government networks are, and that they often fail to make money. Provo, Utah sold its network when the government couldn’t make a go of it. They got one dollar and were still left with millions in debt obligations. Your editorial mentions Chattanooga Tenn.’s government network. That network recently announced a $60 million expansion plan that will serve 1,000 people. In other words, the expansion will cost about $60,000 per customer.
I encourage local government to hang up on calls for building costly networks that duplicate infrastructure the private sector already has built.