Supporters in rural communities in particular view municipal broadband networks as a financial lifeline option. Opponents label them financial failures. However, criteria established by over 500 public networks dub these infrastructure projects successes despite well-funded opposition.

A University of Pennsylvania Law School professor and his research assistant recently released “Municipal Fiber in the United States: An Empirical Assessment of Financial Performance.” The report attempts to show that public-owned networks are financial failures, a tactic community advocates say incumbents use to discredit these networks.

AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon belong to the Center for Technology, Innovation, and Competition (CTIC), which is a major sponsor of the report. Long-time blogger Philip Dampier (Stop the Cap) often follows the money in corporate advocacy. “Corporate money is available to produce ‘research reports’ in return for a generous ‘award.’ Authors have a strong incentive to figure out what the funders are looking for and create research that delivers those results.”