What They Are Saying

Across the country, Americans are speaking out about problems with government-owned networks (GONs).
This is what they are saying:

“Many cities managing these projects have faced defaults, reductions in bond ratings, and ongoing liability, not to mention the toll that troubled municipal broadband ventures can take on city leaders in terms of personal turmoil and distraction from other matters important to citizens.”

Christopher S. Yoo, John H. Chestnut Professor of Law, Communication, and Computer & Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania | July 2021

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson (D) noted the pitfalls and hazards presented when the city considered joining UTOPIA, a municipal broadband network: “During the UTOPIA debate, we thoroughly reviewed and analyzed the possibility of joining UTOPIA and concluded this endeavor posed unacceptable risks to taxpayers, particularly in light of emerging technologies.”

Rocky Anderson (D), Former Mayor of Salt Lake City

“Considerably more was spent to build out the system than had been initially projected. There’s been real criticism about how that spending was done.”

Miro Weinberger (D), Mayor of Burlington, VT


“They came to [Groton Utilities, a municipally-owned electric and water provider,] and asked if there was something we could do. We looked at the whole deal and said, ‘Let’s give it a shot.’ It wasn’t just some wild thought. There was definitely a need, and we were asked to fill it because no one else was willing to. If I knew then …”

Paul Duarte (D), Former Groton Deputy Mayor and Groton City Council Member on Groton Utilities’ failed internet service business


“There were a lot of people involved [in the decision to sell Thames Valley Communications, Inc.], I was one of many. If I had to do it over again, I would sell it again, because we were losing $2 million a year with no plan to get that back, and had $28 million in debt. That’s a fact. It’s a sad fact, but it’s in the past, and I’m trying to move on. If [my opponent] becomes the mayor and says we’re going to do broadband, that’s just not realistic. It will not happen here in the city of Groton. The city has already been bitten by this and they’re not going to do it again. That is a dreamer’s idea.”

Keith Hendrick (D), Groton Mayor discussing the city’s failed internet network while running for re-election in 2021 

“Because government-owned broadband networks have the implicit backing of the taxpayer, and because they are exempt from some of the fees and regulations private sector Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have to pay and abide by, we believe government networks actually crowd out private investment. Private ISPs simply can’t compete when the playing field is so badly tilted against them.”

“Private sector companies can serve our broadband needs — they can’t pay our teachers or lower our tax burden — so we should leave Internet service to them, but too many cities aren’t.”

“While roads and bridges may need to be resurfaced or reinforced regularly, they don’t go out of date quickly. Broadband infrastructure does — and government agencies, even utilities, simply don’t have the expertise, or funding, to keep up with the improvements needed to keep a broadband system on the cutting edge.”

David Young, former Buncombe County commissioner and former state chair of the N.C. Democratic Party, Danny McComas, former Republican N.C. state representative


“Municipal broadband providers do not invest in innovation the same way the private sector does. Local governments are unlikely to contribute to standards-setting organizations or develop and patent new technologies or techniques like private broadband firms do. If we start to treat broadband as a public utility, such as water pipes, sewers, or roads, we are likely to see the same problems develop: deferred investment, congestion, declining quality, and a lack of innovation.”

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

“Lawmakers have a responsibility to make sure limited funds go to such truly critical public services as law enforcement, fire and rescue, education and infrastructure…Many cities and municipalities have entered into the broadband market with disastrous results…Government should not overburden citizens with ventures that result in no benefit and actually harm consumers. Government-owned networks have fared quite poorly because they have neither the resources nor the expertise necessary to provide consumers with reliable state-of-the-art broadband connections…GONs are inefficient and are often great wastes of taxpayer money. They are often duplicative of private commercial networks and almost always add to taxpayers’ total debt burden.”

Joseph P. Fuhr Jr., PhD, Professor of Economics at Widener University, Coalition for the New Economy

“Unlike municipally-run services, or government-owned networks (GONs), which have consistently failed to expand or improve services, private telecommunications providers are in the strongest positions to make the necessary investments to bridge the digital divide…Considering that public networks tend to be costly, and taxpayers will eventually have to pay for them, they are not a better and more efficient alternative to the private investments already in full throttle…These municipal projects are distractions and not solutions. They burden taxpayers while failing to close the digital divide and should not be counted upon as a practical policy. Instead, policymakers should allow the private sector to continue its investments in broadband deployment in underserved communities.”

The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research

“State and local policymakers should work with the private sector to build on current success rather than engage in top-down solutions that are likely more costly and less effective. In seeking to resolve the digital divide, states should prioritize those that truly lack access before moving on to solutions focused on complicated questions of adoption or seeking improved minimum speed.”

American Action Forum | October 2021

“When I served as mayor, no challenge loomed larger than Provo’s government-owned broadband network, which I inherited upon taking office. The iProvo network was established with the promise of delivering affordable high-speed internet connections to all the city’s residents. But the network failed to effectively reach residents across the city and created massive costs that were ultimately paid for by residents. Our local paper dubbed it a millstone around our necks. The debt we incurred to build it dictated the city’s every move. There is an inherent problem with the government stepping out of its core competency. There are dramatic differences between standard government functions – including streets, sewers, parks and city-owned utilities – and the highly competitive and fast-changing world of broadband deployment.”

John Curtis, Former Mayor of Provo, Utah

“In the coming months, schools, pension funds, and other essential city services may face serious budget cuts. Adding new liabilities for public broadband is unlikely to be the best use of limited tax revenues.”

Technology Policy Institute


“Citizens shouldn’t get stuck holding the bag when government networks fail.”

Mackinac Center for Public Policy


“GONs are typically created in communities with existing internet service providers (ISPs), rather than in areas not served by an ISP. This makes the government both a competitor and regulator, creating an unfair situation where rules can be written to benefit the GON and there are no limits on overbuilding broadband capacity. The perils and pitfalls of GONs are well-documented. From Bristol, Virginia to Provo, Utah, GON projects have proven to be costly, unsustainable, and anti-competitive, while they divert taxpayer resources from higher priorities and fail to solve connectivity issues.”

Citizens Against Government Waste


“Government-owned corporations rarely produce the results they promise. More often than not, publicly owned entities competing with private business are unnecessarily costly, providing negligible benefits while crowding out private enterprise. This is particularly true of highly competitive and innovative industries like broadband.”



“Across the country, there has been a consistent pattern of taxpayer-funded broadband networks failing…Billions of dollars have been wasted on these networks without solving the problem of bringing broadband to unserved rural areas…Government intrusion into a sector as complicated and innovative as broadband provision is likely to reduce private investment, which will ultimately harm consumers and increase the risk to taxpayers.”

Taxpayers Protection Alliance


“While these GONs might seem alluring, they frequently fail to live up to the promises made by government officials, and have often led to taxpayer subsidization to maintain operations…Local governments should focus their money and attention on providing their citizens with safe roads and drinking water, and let the private sector worry about adding new internet users.”

The Buckeye Institute


“Local governments routinely tell their citizens that budgets are often too tight to adequately fund public safety, transportation or education, to name just three essential government functions. Adding GONs to the mix is one more (and very expensive) demand on local tax dollars.”

Colorado Business Roundtable


“Policymakers should avoid establishing government owned networks (“GONS”), particularly in areas of the country that already have service. Polling shows that 70 percent of Americans agree that private-sector companies are the best to provide the fastest and most technologically advanced broadband networks.”

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Technology Engagement Center


“Local officials should know these networks have a record of inconsistency, failing to compete and costing taxpayers significantly more than anticipated…Local governments are not well positioned to manage the high cost of continuous investment, dynamic pace of innovation and complicated technical nature of providing reliable and secure internet…Instead of rushing into costly and unreliable solutions at a time when municipal budgets are already strained by the COVID-19 crisis, we should continue building on the public-private partnerships that have worked to provide fast, reliable internet to consumers across Massachusetts.”

The New England Cable and Telecommunications Association


“The history of municipal broadband networks is replete with examples of failed projects that have cost taxpayers millions.”

The Heritage Foundation


“While there is a general positive relationship between broadband and the economy, building a new government-owned network does not automatically cause economic growth or other benefits. Indeed, many government broadband projects fail to break even. Municipal broadband often sounds good in theory and may therefore be popular politically, but the actual benefits to citizens can be outweighed by the costs.”

The Center for Growth and Opportunity


“Surveys, price data, and real-world behavior suggested that cost has, over the years, become a smaller contributor to the digital divide. We should figure out the other reasons keeping people from accessing the internet.”

“Given the evidence of the importance of non-cost factors responsible for the digital divide and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) taking affordability off the table as a cause, our focus needs to pivot away from affordability to studying other key underlying causes of the digital divide. Only by studying this question can we claim to be truly trying to close the divide. Solving the income-based digital divide requires us to go deeper and study questions that have been largely ignored, all stemming from the basic question of why, when broadband is free, do so many people still not subscribe?”

Technology Policy Institute | February 2022


“Broadband has become a critical aspect of modern life, but many Americans still lack access to even basic services. As a result, a growing digital divide threatens to hold back those without reliable broadband.”

Jeffrery Westing, Director of Technology and Innovation Policy at American Action Forum | January 2022


“The resiliency and success of broadband service and access depends on multiple technologies and a competitive marketplace. A single technology and limited providers will result in higher prices, fewer choices, and less innovation, among other adverse consequences.”

Citizens Against Government Waste | October 2021


“Affordability is only part of the adoption problem in America’s digital divide. Digital literacy, device costs, and other barriers also hamper adoption. So, to get more people online, policymakers need to avoid affordability tunnel vision.”

Information Technology and Innovation Foundation | February 2021


“The pandemic demonstrated the growing and immediate importance of every American having access to sufficient internet speeds for work, school, health care, and social activities. President Biden and Congress seem ready to provide a sizable pot of money to bridge the digital divide gap. But no matter how many billions of dollars are allocated, history shows that the money can be spent unwisely if policymakers are not careful.”

“We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to finally connect all of rural America, but only if we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. The funding for broadband after the financial crisis of 2008-2009 was supposed to close the rural accessibility gap, but the programs were mismanaged and spread out over far too many unrelated purposes. It is time to bring broadband to all of the unserved people across America and to reach the president’s target of 100% connectivity.”

“Major ISPs have set up programs to make broadband more affordable to low-income families, which have successfully brought millions of previously unconnected Americans online. According to an April 2021 study from BroadbandNow, 77% of Americans have access to low-priced wired broadband plans, up from 50% a year earlier.”

Progressive Policy Institute | June 2021


“Buildout costs are high, and the benefits side of the ledger is scant. In a research paper released last year, I used FCC and Census Bureau data to analyze the effects of municipal networks on local broadband adoption, unemployment rates, and labor force participation. The presence of a municipal network did not appear to generate a statistically significant improvement on broadband adoption or in economic conditions.”

Sarah Oh, Senior Fellow at the Technology Policy Institute | January 2021


“Early last year, NUL released The Lewis Latimer Plan, a comprehensive analysis for addressing availability, adoption, and access among lesser served communities. As the Plan detailed, even among those Americans for whom a broadband network is available and affordable, there are still tens of millions who have not adopted broadband in their homes.”

“In many cases, non-adoption among low-income demographics is a matter of prioritization and perceived relevance: many households opt to spend on food, rent, and other essentials, rather than broadband service, which is perceived as a luxury, notwithstanding low-income plans from providers that deliver broadband at a low or fully-subsidized monthly cost.”

National Urban League | February 2022


“Even among those Americans for whom a broadband network is available, there are still tens of millions who have not adopted broadband in their homes… For millions of Americans who do not subscribe to broadband, the cost of service remains an overwhelming obstacle to adoption.”

National Urban League | June 2021