Government should not own broadband networks

Greg R. Lawson Jun 21, 2021

The letter was published in the Akron Beacon Journal.

Keep city hall out of broadband business

Regarding the June 13 article “New budget could kill municipal broadband services,” officials in communities that operate government-owned networks or GONs — such as Fairlawn and Hudson — expressed fear that a provision added to the state budget will “put them out of business.”

In fact, the provision is a necessary taxpayer protection that will ensure federal broadband dollars are used to legitimately expand service to unserved areas of Ohio.

The Buckeye Institute has noted numerous examples, from more than a decade of research, of GONs offering services that are already available from private providers, failing to attract enough customers to achieve financial stability and opaquely channeling taxpayer dollars away from critical government services. GONs can also disincentivize private investments and charitable initiatives, like the Facebook/T-Mobile/Foundation for Appalachian Ohio partnership that expanded broadband access to 240 locations in unserved areas of the state.

Buckeye is on the record supporting broadband expansion to promote 21st century competitiveness, long-distance education, telehealth, and telework. Responsible taxpayer protections to avoid superfluous GONs will help Ohio reach that shared goal.

Greg R. Lawson, research fellow at the Buckeye Institute, Columbus