Would it shock you to know that the United States has some of the slowest Internet speeds in the world?
Would it also shock you to learn that the majority of Americans pay some of highest prices in the world, for this same sub-par Internet access?
Whether you’re aware of it or not, slow Internet speeds are a reality for many. But years ago, a select few cities chose to install a publicly provided Internet service provider (ISP) and it’s paying off.
Following Chattanooga’s Lead
Chattanooga was the first city in the country to establish its own publicly owned Internet with speeds at 1GB. To compare, the rest of the nation averages around 24MB, which means the residents of Chattanooga are browsing the Internet over 50 times faster than the majority of the U.S. while paying about the same price.
To put that download speed into perspective, Chattanooga residents can download a full-length HD movie in 35 seconds, but it would take the rest of us around 25 minutes to do the same. Could you imagine what all you could get done with that kind of Internet speed?!
Since Chattanooga, other publicly-owned fiber cities have popped up in Lafayette, La., and Bristol, Va., as well as Google jumping into the game by offer fiber optic Internet access in cherry-picked cities like Kansas City. Chattanooga boasts that while the upfront costs to provide fiber optic Internet to its residents was expensive, they received a federal grant that covered $111 million of the initial investment, but have since saved taxpayers millions in unnecessary fees and time lost by slow-loading computers while also creating hundreds of jobs. Not to mention, a number of companies have chosen to relocate to Chattanooga simply based on Internet speeds.
So why hasn’t this been done nationwide yet?
Simply put: broadband companies like Comcast and Verizon essentially have monopolies set up all over the country where they are the only ISP available. They’re comfortable with the status quo and don’t feel the need to upgrade their networks for faster speeds, even though they were given taxpayer money to do so, years ago.
These same companies hold a tremendous amount of “influence” on local and state governments where it’s actually been written into law that no other company can start an ISP locally. (seriously)
The good news is that Jacksonville has no such law preventing the city from starting its own ISP. The not-so-good-news is that the initial investment to start an ISP is expensive. But this can be avoided if Jacksonville follows the Chattanooga model and obtains government funding for the initial investment.
What can we do now?
Fortunately for us, gaining public support for Jacksonville’s own ISP begins and ends at the local level. While select areas in North Florida are already wired for fiber optic Internet (Gainesville and Palm Valley), it will take an investment from the local government to see that we are prepped for our future communication needs.
So much of our lives are centered around Internet access. And when major companies such as Intel and Forbes call Jacksonville one of the leading tech and innovation hubs in the country, it’s time we start acting like it.
Contact your local City Council representative today at (904) 630-1377 to voice your support for our future by getting behind fast and affordable Internet access for all.