In the study ten years ago, consumers indicated that a more competitive environment was a significant need. Residential and business consumers still see this as a need for local government to ensure a level of competition. Qualitative Public Survey respondents indicated overwhelmingly (58% essential, 25% very important and 11% somewhat important) that their local government ensures that they have a choice of Internet service providers.
Table 7: Importance of choice of more than one Internet service provider
County Data indicates that business consumers feel the same way. But in addition to an interest in competitive services, the majority of residents and businesses view the Internet as an essential utility (see data and discussion in Finding 1.12). It is notable that the question concerning the essential, utility-like nature of Internet service was framed such that it was compared with the essential nature of electricity, or power, which the population typically has seen as an essential utility. Electricity, at least at the transmission level, is a regulated utility due to its essential nature and the use of the public right-of-way to provide service, it will be important for local governments to look not only at its policy making responsibilities, but also at its regulatory authority. This would help ensure all residents and businesses have affordable access to the reliable, high-capacity, Internet service.