The United States' largest community broadband effort is Utah's UTOPIA, which has been under assault by large incumbent ISPs like Qwest
(now CenturyLink) since before the first customer was even connected. UTOPIA has for much of a decade successfully fended off both these ISPs and a good deal of managerial incompetence on their own part, and is on the cusp of securing a significant cash boost
from an Australian investment firm.
The company's open access concept (wherein ISPs are invited in to compete) has long been a nightmare for price competition phobic incumbent carriers, terrified that this public/private concept could spread elsewhere.
The latest incumbent ISP effort to kill Utopia comes in the form of HB60, legislation proposed by State Rep. Curt Webb that would not only harm UTOPIA, but could impact Google Fiber's expansion in the state. According to local Jessie Harris at Free Utopia
, the bill would be a death blow to the municipal network:
As the bill is currently written, UTOPIA wouldn’t just be prevented from building to people willing to pay for it. They could also be required to shut down any existing services and be prohibited from maintaining their backbone that links cities together. It would effectively be a death sentence on any network that isn’t entirely within member cities AND can connect to an exchange point to reach ISPs and the rest of the Internet.
Did I mention recently that communities wouldn't be trying to build these networks if they were happy with the service and prices of existing ISP services? As we've seen in Kansas
, Google Fiber's entry into the fray has brought renewed attention to these kinds of protectionist bills, even though 22 states have managed to pass them without too much press attention. Webb (and the ISPs paying him) apparently hope to finally kill UTOPIA before it can secure additional funding, while wrapping Google Fiber in protectionist, bureaucratic red tape for good measure.