Report finds that 26 states now either restrict or outright prohibit towns and cities from building their own broadband networks, up from 20 in 2018 (Karl Bode/Motherboard)

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A new report has found that 26 states now either restrict or outright prohibit towns and cities from building their own broadband networks. Quite often the laws are directly written by the telecom sector, and in some instances ban towns and cities from building their own broadband networks—even if the local ISP refuses to provide service.

The full report by BroadbandNow, a consumer-focused company that tracks US broadband availability, indicates the total number of state restrictions on community broadband has jumped from 20 such restrictions since the group’s last report in 2018.

Frustrated by slow speeds, limited availability, high prices and terrible customer service, more than 750 communities across the country have built their own broadband ISPs or cooperatives. Studies have shown these locally owned and operated networks tend to offer lower prices, faster speeds, and better customer service than their private-sector counterparts.

Instead of competing by offering better service—private sector telecom giants like Comcast and AT&T have routinely turned to a cheaper alternative: easily corrupted state lawmakers. In exchange for campaign contributions, lawmakers frequently and uncritically pass on model legislation written by industry and distributed by organizations like ALEC.

Often the restrictions are buried in other, unrelated legislation to try and avoid