Belmont residents and businesses have two choices when it comes to broadband Internet service: Verizon and Comcast. But what if a third option existed: community owned broadband. Fourteen Massachusetts communities have already adopted it. Could Belmont be the next? Belmont’s own Michael Crowley explains how municipal broadband works and why it might be a good option for Belmont to consider.
When it comes to Internet Service Providers (ISP’s), we in Belmont are mostly left with one of two choices: Verizon’s FiOS fiber optic service or Comcast’s Xfinity. Outside of these two dominant players, there just aren’t any other good alternatives.
Both companies have locked in most of the households in our community with short term teaser rates, after which the cost of internet service rises dramatically. Most of us learn to live with this—and generally through resignation. Or, we resign ourselves to the hassle of calling our ISP and threatening to shift to the other provider, finally negotiating for a temporary and minor discount. (I just renegotiated for a slight $5 a month discount with Verizon.)
But what if there was another way to get Internet Service without the aggravation of negotiating with two market behemoths? A way to receive a competitive service at a competitive price? Some Massachusetts communities have found just such an alternative in something called “community broadband.”
Community broadband is a publicly owned and financed alternative that’s already found a home in several Massachusetts communities, including nearby Concord. In the case of Concord, the town’s light department has strung fiber optic cable on the very same electrical utility poles that the town owns, creating Concord Light Broadband, a publicly owned fiber optic network serving businesses and residents in that town with Internet service at speeds up to 200 Mbps (megabits per second) for homes and 300 Mbps for businesses. Prices are competitive with commercial providers like Verizon and Comcast, though those services do offer higher speed plans.