Federal Broadband Law Could Spell Trouble for Rural Internet Users

Aug 31, 2016

Mark and Tina Gomez at home in Pinetops, N.C. They may move to nearby Wilson to keep their broadband service.
Credit Jeremy Lange / New York Times

A federal court’s decision concerning a broadband internet case could have wide-ranging implications for rural Americans.

This month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld restrictive laws in North Carolina and Tennessee. These laws will halt the growth of municipal broadband networks in those states.

But, as The New York Times reports, the case hinders the progress of dozens of city-wide broadband projects nationwide. In many rural areas of the country, it simply isn’t cost-effective for traditional cable and telecom firms to offer fast internet. In response, federal officials have made a bold effort to support towns and cities that want to fund their own broadband networks. City officials say the new ruling will encourage private companies to try to put a stop to more public broadband services. But free-market lobbyists say public broadband projects are costly and, if unsuccessful, can be a financial burden on taxpayers.