Dissatisfied by private Internet providers’ service or speed, cities from Lancaster, Pa., to Boulder, Colo., have sought to build their own networks to provide upgraded, and in some cases, free service to residents. In turn, providers such as Time Warner and Comcast, among others, have complained to state lawmakers about unfair government competition….This year, Wyoming became one of 12 states that restricts public broadband Internet, joining Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Legislation proposing restrictions in North Carolina is in the committee phase but has inspired opposition from cities, consumer advocates such as the North Carolina Public Interest Research Group and tech companies such as Google. The debate also has caught the attention of U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., who has drafted a bill to keep states from putting up barriers to public Internet. “Broadband is every bit as essential as electricity was when it was emerging 100 years ago,” he said. One of the state legislators Boucher wants to stop, Rep. Drew Saunders, also drew a comparison to the utilities of the past. The Democratic chairman of the N.C. House Public Utilities Committee said the bill he introduced this year would apply 21st-century technology to the principle that municipalities shouldn’t compete with industry.
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