Public Ownership is Good for Business

Opponents of public ownership like to claim that publicly owned broadband is somehow hostile to business -- this is a a major Time Warner Cable talking point in North Carolina. The reality is that community networks are incredibly biased in favor of local businesses. Most community fiber networks resulted out of economic development needs, when public leaders realize the fast, reliable, and affordable access to the Internet is a key to attracting businesses (and that massive absentee incumbents rarely care to invest enough to attract those businesses).

Unfortunately, the argument resonates among a public that rarely remembers the U.S. economy was built on key public infrastructure investments -- from roads and highways to water works to universal electrification, if the public didn't own the infrastructure outright, it attempted to regulate in the public interest. And though regulators are frequently captured by those they regulate, the outcome is still better than allowing unaccountable electrical trusts to arbitrarily decide how much to gouge their customers.

When Google was search for a community partner in building its gigabit network, it was not shy about public ownership -- we now know that a key factor in the decision was Kansas City's publicly owned electrical company. Being owned by the City allowed Google a single point of contact and an assurance that they could all work together to build the network.

Surveying businesses in three early FTTH communities revealed dramatic savings:

In terms of fiber-enabled cost savings, 120 businesses in Bristol reported an average of $2,951 in savings per year, while, in Reedsburg, 33 cited annual cost savings averaging $20,682. Twenty Jackson businesses reported cost impacts due to fiber, with one large organization reporting a total of $3 million in savings. The other 19 Jackson respondents reported a net average cost increase of $3,150 per organization.

Make no mistake, public ownership of infrastructure is not anti-business, it is pro-business. There are a handful of businesses that benefit tremendously when they control infrastructure -- but it comes at the expense of the vast majority of businesses and citizens.