For decades, municipal broadband operations have been subject to a minefield of restrictions and barriers designed to make the prospect of establishing or maintaining a community broadband network costly, difficult, and unsustainable.
There are currently 17 states in total that have restrictive legislation against municipal broadband networks in the U.S. To explore further, see a directory of all internet providers in the United States or enter a ZIP code to find all internet providers in your area.
Although no states have managed to remove their restrictions in 2022, 2023 could be the year that things begin to change for states that have historically been opposed to allowing for a public option. A key stipulation in the language surrounding the BEAD grants may set up a large-scale, politically motivated battleground.
Minnesota is on that list…
Minn. Stat. Ann. § 237.19; Minn. Stat. Ann. § 429.021
Minnesota state laws require municipal governments proposing to offer telecommunications exchange to obtain a referendum “supermajority” of 65% of voters to proceed. Municipal governments are able to construct, extend, improve and maintain facilities for Internet access only if the city council finds that the proposed broadband network and service will not compete with existing services provided by private telecom companies, or if such services are not and will not be available through private telecom companies in the foreseeable future.
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The Legislature is in session now. Now would be a good time to look into what would be needed to remove of minimize the barrier.
I received an email response worth sharing this the topic…
Just in case you haven’t already read it, I wanted to highlight some NTIA comments on the concerns regarding municipal broadband restrictions.
No, municipal broadband laws won’t delay BEAD funding (fiercetelecom.com)
• “We want to get the best possible networks built, and to do that, we’ve asked states to create a level playing field on which municipalities, cooperatives, and small, medium, and large companies can all compete for these funds,” the [NTIA] representative stated. That said, “there is nothing in our rules that preempts existing state laws.”
• In response to a question from Fierce about what will happen to states that decline to waive their municipal broadband restrictions, the NTIA representative said “There is nothing in our rules that any state’s or territory’s BEAD allocation would be delayed or reduced due to a state’s restriction on pre-existing public eligibility to compete for BEAD grants.”