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Internet / Municipal government

What got wrong about Newark’s municipal broadband project

Here's what the libertarian magazine has to say vs. what we know to be true.

Reason warns against Newark's municipal broadband study. (Photo by Flickr user Gavin St. Ours, used under a Creative Commons license)

Perhaps not so surprisingly, libertarian magazine Reason published a blog post warning Newark City Council of the threats municipal broadband projects pose to local taxpayers.
The post incorrectly reports that the network is being built — it is actually far from it, still existing completely in the research stage. It also wrongly assumes the project is the brainchild of local politicians when it was actually brought to city council’s attention by a band of constituents (and continues to be led by them).
The piece raises most of its concerns over the amount of competition in the market already.
“The current market has 98.9% broadband penetration, and residents in Delaware enjoy the fastest average speeds of any state in the country,” the report says. This is true and valid — but as we’ve reported, that is not the case for all of Delaware.
The post asserts the fact that there is already a saturated provider base in the area, and that the addition of a broadband provider supported by taxpayers would not increase broadband speed, but only serve to be a revenue generator. That, the post reads, would be unlikely, considering the number of failed municipal broadband projects since the 1990s.
But those projects have one thing in common, and Reason (whether they know it or not) has admitted it — they don’t place emphasis on taxpayer input.
“A committed federalist may look at some of these government broadband schemes and tell them to go for it—after all, local governments can be laboratories of democracy, and as long as they’re only gambling with their own constituents’ money, those constituents can vote—both with their ballots and with their feet,” says the report.
Newark City Council is doing just that by ensuring its constituency is as involved as much possible. Doesn’t everybody want to be governed by a body that actually values their wants, needs and opinions?
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