It is timely to fact check the Federal Government’s storyline that broadband is a ‘core utility,’ given a new White House report that directs municipalities that broadband is a “core utility… like water, sewer and electricity;” and given that a senior FCC official recently encouragedlocal municipalities at the NATOA conference to build their own local broadband infrastructure with the FCC’s backing now that the FCC has claimed the legal authority to preempt State laws limiting municipal broadband.
Few terms are more misunderstood than “urban sprawl.” Generally, it refers to the spatial expansion (dispersion) of cities and has been use to describe urbanization from the most dense (least sprawling) in the world (Dhaka, Bangladesh), the most dense in the United States (Los Angeles) and also the least dense in the world (such as Atlanta and Charlotte, low density world champions in their population categories).
Recently two towns, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the City of Wilson, North Carolina, have petitioned the federal government, via the FCC, complaining that state laws are constraining them from the municipal provision of broadband services, that is, from building a government owned network (GON). That is, these municipalities want to expend resources to build and operate broadband systems, without following any of regulations that govern private sector providers. To overcome the state’s rightful authority the city governments have proposed that the FCC preempt state law and empower municipalities in ways that upset the political structure of the U.S.
The fortunes of U.S. core cities (municipalities) have varied greatly in the period of automobile domination that accelerated strongly at the end of World War II. This is illustrated by examining trends between the three categories of “historical core municipalities” (Figure 1). Since that time, nearly all metropolitan area (the functional or economic definition of the city) growth has been suburban, outside core municipality limits, or in the outer rings of existing, core municipalities.