Study Finds Municipal and Competitive Private ISP Networks Have Lower Prices

A study of internet access prices in 23 communities where municipal internet access services are offered has found that “most community-owned FTTH networks charged less and offered prices that were clear and unchanging, whereas private ISPs typically charged initial low promotional or “teaser” rates that later sharply rose, usually after 12 months.”

The comparisons were made of the entry-level services, offering 25/3 Mbps service in 2015 and 2016. In these 23 communities, prices for the lowest-cost program were between 2.9 percent and 50 percent less than the lowest-cost such service offered by a private provider.

In the other four cases, a private provider’s service cost between 6.9 percent and 30.5 percent less.

The study supports the notion that more competition--of any sort--leads to lower consumer prices, whether provided by a municipal provider or a private firm.  

The study does suggest that municipal networks do indeed lead to lower consumer prices. The study might also support the thesis that municipal networks--which often also aim to boost internet access speeds--actually do so.

Those findings arguably are what one would expect if the objective of launching any such municipal broadband network is precisely to provide lower prices and higher speeds (lower price per unit of speed).

One could make the same predictions for private gigabit internet access providers such as Ting, which have a business objective of supplying gigabit internet access at far lower prices than offered by incumbent internet service providers.

The study, conducted by David Talbot, Kira Hessekiel and Danielle Kehl, and published by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society Research, found that in 23 cases, the community-owned FTTH providers’ pricing was lower when averaged over four years.


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