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New Haven cools on building city-owned broadband

New Haven is scrapping the idea of building a city-owned high-speed internet network and now plans instead to encourage expansion of existing, largely private broadband services, the New Haven Independent reported.

Mayor Justin Elicker and Economic Development Officer Dean Mack told the newspaper in an interview that the decision stemmed from multiple factors, including current providers’ own growth plans and new federal money for improving broadband access.

“We want to make sure we’re not spending local tax dollars on something the federal government will already be covering,” Mack said, and officials also now realize “that there’s market interest in doing what we were thinking of doing ourselves.”

The $1 trillion infrastructure deal that President Joe Biden signed last November includes money to expand affordable high-speed internet access. Biden is a Democrat, as is Elicker.

New Haven hired a consulting firm in January to explore options for improving internet access, including the possibility of creating a public network. Mack said the city paid the consultants about $40,000, and their work “really helped us out.”

The city now plans to tap federal subsidies, woo new broadband providers and encourage current ones to carry out their expansion plans.

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