Biden’s infrastructure plan calls for muni-owned internet. Would it work?

The rural borough of Kutztown, Pa., couldn’t convince companies to bring faster internet to its community. So the town, about 70 miles northwest of Philadelphia, built its own broadband network.

Since 2000, Kutztown’s 5,000 residents can buy internet service from a municipal entity, just like the water and electricity they purchase from borough utilities. The publicly owned, fiber optic network has not only provided improved download speeds, but has also lowered prices, the town says. A private company has since slashed its rates to compete, it adds.

“Whether you subscribe to the service or not, you’re still benefiting from its existence,” said Mark Arnold, the borough’s telecommunications director.

President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan aims to expand internet access by building more such community broadband networks. The Biden administration has called broadband “the new electricity,” noting the federal government worked to bring power to nearly every home under President Franklin Roosevelt because it was crucial to the economy.