But the rural broadband service they're creating is slower, uses obsolete DSL technology instead of fiber, costs more for customers, and costs more for the federal government than the broadband networks created by smaller rural electric and telephone cooperatives, Matthew Marcus writes for The Daily Yonder. Marcus researches community broadband networks and policy for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
Part of the reason big telecoms deliver slower internet is that the Connect America Fund only requires companies to provide broadband at speeds of at least 10 megabytes per second download and 1 Mbps upload -- far slower than the optimum FCC definition of broadband, which requires at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. Even after AT&T received a $2.5 billion CAF subsidy, its 10/1 Mbps broadband service will cost $60-70 per month. In contrast, "In rural central Missouri, $60 per month gets you a symmetrical (upload and download) 250 Mbps fiber-to-the-home connection from Co-Mo Electric Cooperative, and United Fiber in northern Missouri only charges $50 for 100 Mbps service. And they aren’t getting CAF support to do it either," Marcus writes.
"Handing billions of federal dollars over to companies like AT&T for an already obsolete technology is wasteful and counter-productive," Marcus continues. "Investing in local cooperatives is a future-proof solution that redirects control and revenue to each respective community. Not only does this provide better, more affordable Internet service, it will revitalize faltering rural economies and improve overall quality of life across rural America."
The institute has mapped where co-ops offer fiber-optic internet (click on map for larger version):