Rural Broadband’s Struggles

Published on March 4, 2009
by Amol Sharma

Critics have attacked municipal Internet projects, calling them taxpayer-sapping money-losers and ventures better served by the private sector.

But if President Barack Obama is serious about wiring rural America with high-speed Web access, these efforts, like the central Vermont one we profiled today, will play a key role.

The reason: Commercial operators don’t want to lay cable and erect cell towers in the hinterland.

The $7.2 billion the economic stimulus package provides for broadband funding will give a needed boost to cities that are struggling to float bonds to investors to raise money. Communities that get federal help will have the “headroom to do a project that investors view as risky,” said Jim Baller, a Washington attorney and leading municipal broadband advocate.

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