The Fastest ISP In America Is Community Owned And Operated
from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept
We’ve long noted that community broadband networks are just an organic response to the broken, uncompetitive US broadband market. While you’ll occasionally see some deployment duds if the business models aren’t well crafted, studies have shown such networks (there are 750 and counting now in the States) offer cheaper, faster service than many incumbents. In short, these communities grew so frustrated with America’s mediocre, patchy, and expensive broadband service, they built their own.
This direct threat to incumbent revenues is a major reason why ISP lobbyists have passed protectionist laws in more than 21 states trying to block your town’s ability to even consider the option. It’s also why you’ll often see the telecom sector and its various, obedient tendrils routinely try to claim these networks are a vile menace to free speech (they’re not) or a guaranteed waste of taxpayer funds (again, not true at all).
Here in reality, many of these networks are outperforming their private sector counterparts. Chattanooga’s EPB, for example, was rated one of the best ISPs in America by Consumer Reports, despite Comcast’s efforts to sue the effort out of existence. And this week, PC Magazine’s ratings of the fastest and most popular ISPs showed that Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU), a locally-owned utility providing broadband out of Cedar Falls, Iowa, offers the fastest averaged speed ratings the magazine’s researchers have ever seen:
Verizon’s Fios was the top rated private ISP, and notice where they fall in the comparison above. From the full report:
“Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) out of Cedar Falls, Iowa, has the fastest average PCMag Speed Index we’ve ever seen. Even individual towns with fast speeds were never capable of this in our previous tests. (Pick your jaw up off the floor so you can start searching Zillow for house listings there.) Its PSI of 1,350.4 shows what’s possible when your state doesn’t block municipal ISPs that are part of a town/city utility. (They are blocked in about half of the US.)
The Cedar Falls effort is one of the oldest and most successful community networks to date, and now it’s the fastest — by a wide margin. That lawmakers continue to pass and defend protectionist state laws literally written by Comcast and AT&T prohibiting such efforts where applicable continues to be a nationwide embarrassment. If ISPs really wanted to put these efforts to bed, they’d offer faster, cheaper, better service. Instead, we get FCC officials trying to falsely claim such networks trample your free speech rights.
To be clear, community networks aren’t a panacea. But they’re not automatic taxpayer disasters, either. In many areas, courtesy of limited competition and feckless, campaign cash compromised lawmakers and regulators, they’re the only thing pressuring regional telecom monopolies to actually try and do better. And as this Harvard study illustrated quite well, because they’re actually part of the community they serve, they tend to have a vested interest in their communities’ welfare, resulting in better, faster, cheaper broadband and decent customer service.