While Ford is correct that not every municipal broadband project has succeeded—there have been some catastrophic failures beset with scandal that have undermined the movement in general—there are many examples (Chattanooga, Tennessee; Lafayette, Louisiana; and Leverett, Massachusetts come to mind) of it working quite well. So far, at least 83 cities in the US have offered fiber to their citizens. Many—most—are not economic disasters.The most glaring problem with Ford's paper is that he uses economic theory over and over to prove his point, without doing any deep dives into the economics of these real-world examples. Time and time again, cities have been thrilled with the fact that investment in broadband technology has led to businesses relocating to take advantage of fast and reliable internet. Ford dismisses this phenomenon as "business stealing" that may be good for one city but is bad for the rest of the country.
"People are kooky for broadband … there's no rational broadband thinking at the FCC and people are carrying on about it so much"
This is a bizarre argument does not leave room for the idea that top-of-class broadband can spur and support the creation of new businesses that take advantage of higher bandwidth connections; it also does not take into account research that suggests faster connections lead to higher real estate values and more educational opportunities for residents, which are associated with better economic outcomes overall. Finally, it operates on the assumption that the status quo should be good enough going forward—that America's businesses can and should continue to compete globally with companies based in countries with broadband that runs laps around ours.Ford wrote that labeling broadband a "necessity" or "a human right" is "melodramatic" and wrote in the paper that "downloading a movie in five seconds rather than five minutes is a private issue, not a social good worthy of taxes and subsidies."
Municipal broadband is a repudiation of the status quo, an emphatic statement by voters and their representatives that the free market has not worked for them.