The COVID-19 pandemic has forced community leaders, in Worcester and across the country, to look at existing systems in new ways – education, retail businesses, telecommuting and other mainstays have been reevaluated in the face of social distancing and quarantines. One system at the heart of many ongoing and proposed changes is internet service.
The City of Worcester has left broadband to the private sector, even as the internet has become a critical part of most residents’ personal and professional lives. While problems with access, price and speed existed before COVID, an increased reliance on services like videoconferencing, remote learning and telemedicine have laid bare problems that a regional monopoly, lack of infrastructure investment and a prioritization of profits over service have exacerbated.
Beginning with Glasgow, Kentucky in 1989, many municipalities have started their own Internet Service Provider (ISP) systems, and have provided more access and better speeds and reliability than private options. Communities that treat internet access as a core service, rather than a luxury, have seen economic and quality of life benefits. This report will examine municipal broadband as a concept, and what it would take to work in Worcester.