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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Some towns have taken matters into their own hands, experimenting with novel solutions to connect unserved residents or give them new options to existing services.

Why it matters: Some less-populated areas may technically have internet, but it's slower satellite, or DSL service delivered over old copper phone lines. Sometimes there's only one provider charging high prices.

"It's kind of like getting electricity in the 1940s and 1950s. It's nice, but the communities that really thrived are the ones that got it in the 1920s and 1930s. If you want to be the centers of commerce and culture, you've got to have the networks."
— Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance

What some communities are doing:

  • In Wilson, N.C., the community-owned Greenlight fiber network serves residents and provides free WiFi downtown and to schools and libraries. (A state law now bans cities from operating their own ISPs.)
  • In Fort Collins, Colo., the voters passed a ballot initiative to allow the city to build its own high-speed network. Fort Collins expects to pay off the $150 million it raised through bonds and debt in 14 years.
  • In San Francisco, the city has asked for proposals to build a city owned and operated ISP that would compete with Comcast and AT&T.
  • In Boston, the Boston Housing Authority has partnered with Starry, a 5G company, to provide free and low-cost service to public and affordable housing residents.
  • In Michigan's rural upper peninsula, local provider Packerland Broadband partnered with Microsoft via its initiative to use vacant TV frequencies and a mix of other technologies to deliver service.

The catch: City-owned networks would compete with the major ISPs who operate there, and incumbents have successfully lobbied states to pass laws preventing or discouraging towns from building their own broadband networks.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
14 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.