Municipal Broadband Providers in Texas

There are 8 municipal broadband providers in Texas as of 2021.

Municipal broadband refers to internet service that is provided by a city or municipality, often in the form of an electric cooperative. This is different from private internet service providers (ISPs) like Xfinity and AT&T, and in fact, municipal connections are often found in areas where private competition is or has been lacking in the past.

There are a total of 331 active municipal broadband networks in the United States today. In Texas, the majority of the municipal operations take the form of electric cooperatives, which offer internet options on top of established electrical services. 5 of the 8 municipal providers in Texas are utility co-ops: ACCESS Fiber by Taylor Electric Cooperative, Grayson Collin Communications, GEUS, Bandera Fiber, and Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative.

6 of the 8 municipal broadband providers in Texas offer residential services, with 4 offering FTTH (Fiber-to-the-home) service in the last mile. The rest focus on enterprise and business services, or are exclusive to municipal services and anchor institutions like hospitals, libraries, and schools.

There are currently no municipal networks under development and pending launch in Texas as of 2021.

Texas Municipal Broadband Providers Summary

ProviderNetwork TypeServices Offered
ACCESS Fiber by Taylor Electric CooperativeFiberResidential FTTH, Enterprise.
NextLinkCable, FiberResidential, Enterprise, Anchor institutions and municipal buildings.
Grayson Collin CommunicationsFiber, DSL Residential .
GEUSCable, FiberResidential, Enterprise.
City of College Station Dark Fiber Dark Fiber Anchor institutions and municipal buildings.
MB LinkFiber Enterprise, Anchor institutions and municipal buildings.
Guadelupe Valley Electric Cooperative FiberResidential FTTH, Enterprise.
Bandera Fiber FiberResidential FTTH, Enterprise.

Residential Municipal Broadband Service and FTTH in Texas

The following municipal broadband providers in Texas offer residential services:

ACCESS Fiber by Taylor Electric Cooperative

ACCESS Fiber by Taylor Electric Cooperative provides internet services to customers in and around Abilene, Texas. The company is currently working to expand the fiber-to-the-home network, allowing residents to indicate that they are interested in order to priotizie areas of expansion. ACCESS Fiber by Taylor Electric Cooperative launched residential internet services in 2017.

NextLink is a private internet service provider that has partnered with the city of Hudson Oaks, Texas to provide gigabit internet access to residents, as well as to the local municipality. NextLink launched residential internet services in 2012.

Grayson Collin Communications

Grayson Collin Communications provides internet service backed by the Grayson Collin Electric Cooperative. They provide a variety of fiber and DSL-based internet service options to both residential and business customers, as well as a fixed wireless option. Grayson Collin Communications launched residential internet services in FALSE.

GEUS

GEUS is a municipally-owned electric provdier that began to offer internet services in 2001 after the town realized that the private sector was unwilling to service the area. The network utilizes a hybrid fiber coaxial setup and also offers TV service to Greenville residents. GEUS launched residential internet services in 2001.

Guadelupe Valley Electric Cooperative

Guadelupe Valley Electric Cooperative began offering internet service to residential customers in 1998. Since then, the organization has fiber-to-the-home internet options, as well as packages for commercial accounts. Guadelupe Valley Electric Cooperative launched residential internet services in 1998.

Bandera Fiber

Bandera Electric Cooperative operates its Bandera Fiber network for residents in Lakehills, Texas. The group offers both commercial and residential services, including multiple gigabit options.

Business and Institutional Municipal Broadband Providers in Texas

The following municipal broadband providers in Texas do not offer residential service, and instead focus on enterprise or city services:

City of College Station Dark Fiber

College Station has leased its spare dark fiber network out for the first time, allowing a local provider called WireStar to make use of the network to bring fiber-to-the-home service to residential customers within town limits. 1

MB Link is a municipal network operated by the city of Mont Belvieu, Texas. It offers both residential and commercial services, including fiber-to-the-home.

Barriers to Municipal Broadband Deployment in Texas

Despite the fact that several municipal broadband operations exist in Texas today, the state actually imposes restrictions that make these sorts of networks exceedingly difficult to build out and operate.

Specifically, Texas Utilities Code, § 54.201 2 states that municipalities are prohibited from offering telecommunications services directly to their residents. They are also prohibited from establishing a city-run private telecom company to achieve the same end, though there are a few hyper-specific provisions for areas that do not have any existing broadband service options.

Despite this, the situation in Texas has become more complex in recent years. In 2016, the city of Mont Belvieu was able to successfully deploy a fiber network and begin offering broadband to its residents. It was able to do so because the local district court ruled that internet services did not fall under the state’s definition for telecommunication service.

More recently, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a piece of legislation (SB-14) into law that enabled electric cooperatives to begin offering broadband services to existing and new customers. This has resulted in many doing exactly that, which explains why the majority of municipal operations take this form in Texas. Municipal governments themselves are still unable to establish dedicated broadband services as of Q4 2020.

While often framed as a “left vs right” issue, communities supporting municipal broadband are often frustrated by what can be seen as a preemption of local right to choice on infrastructure issues — not just a deterent against the sort of tax spend that’s run up large bills on municipal fiber projects in left-leaning California communities like Los Angeles or the San Francisco Bay Area.

Municipal Preemptions Could Transform Texan Internet Access

Though many of the most populous regions of Texas enjoy a robust broadband marketplace, the state’s vast swaths of rural land are not so fortunate. According to the latest FCC data, nearly 60% of Texas residents do not have access to fiber, with 15% having no access whatsoever. This data is widely known to be overreported, meaning it is likely that millions in the state do not have an adequate broadband connection at their address.

Removing state barriers to the creation of municipal broadband networks could be transformative for the communities that have long been ignored by the private sector, helping to bring future-proofed technologies like fiber to areas that are unlikely to see them in the near future otherwise.

Legality of Municipal Broadband in Texas

The state of Texas partially prohibits the sale of broadband services by municipalities and other local governments as of 2021.

However, the regulations have been amended and outright circumvented at times, most noteably through the offering of internet service by electic co-ops — making the legal status of municipal broadband more than a little confusing in Texas.

Texas Utilities Code, § 54.201 Breakdown

From the Texas Utilities Code, § 54.201:

	§ 54.201. CERTIFICATION PROHIBITED.  The commission may 
not grant to a municipality a:
		(1)  certificate of convenience and necessity;                                
		(2)  certificate of operating authority;  or                                  
		(3)  service provider certificate of operating 
authority.                   

Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 166, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.     

  • Texas Utilities Code § 54.201 currently prohibits municipalities from establishing broadband services to their residents.
  • This law was originally enacted in September 1997, when municipal broadband as a concept was just beginning to take shape. Prior to this year, the market was, for all intents and purposes, entirely unregulated.

2016 Circumvention of State Law

In 2016, the city of Mont Belvieu was able to successfully build out and deploy a fiber-based internet network, despite the prohibition. It was able to do so thanks to a local district court decision that ruled broadband services did not fall under the state law’s classification of “telecommunications” services.

In essence, the city’s legal counsel was able to argue that the planned service was a “non-voice data transmission service,” which did not overlap with the state’s definition, which includes “local exchange telephone service, basic telecommunications service, or switched access service.”

Today, this effort has culminated in MB Link – a local municipal fiber provider that offers residents symmetrical gigabit internet service for $75 per month. MB Link is one of only 8 municipal providers in Texas, and is currently the only of its kind in operation. Despite this, the City of Mont Belvieu has welcomed the opportunity to share their strategy with any others in Texas that wish to establish a true municipal broadband service for residents.

2019 Electric Cooperative Bill

In the 2019 legislative session, Gov. Greg Abbott signed bill SB 14 into law, allowing electric cooperatives in Texas to establish broadband services in areas where they currently serve residents for electrical services. The bill marked the first major change to the status quo in over two decades, and almost immediately resulted in several such networks being established.

Today, the majority of municipal broadband networks in Texas are electric cooperatives – 5 of the 8 in total.

This page is based on a database of municipal broadband services maintained by ConnectCalifornia.com. This page updates automatically as we update the database on a monthly basis. The last modification was made 2021 October.


Frequently Asked Questions

How many municipal providers are there in Texas?

There are currently just 8 municipal broadband providers operating residential services in the state of Texas. Additionally, there is one dark fiber network in the city of College Station that is being leased out to a private provider. As of 2021, there are no other networks in development in the state, due to restrictive state laws against establishing municipal networks.

Does Texas state law currently prohibit municipal broadband?

Texas state law currently prohibits the establishment of most forms of municipal broadband. Exceptions currently include electric cooperatives that wish to establish internet services on top of existing utilities, but municipalities themselves are banned from directly offering these same services to residents.

Is municipal broadband legal in Texas?

Texas state law currently prohibits municipal broadband in most forms. However, a 2019 law made it possible for electric cooperatives to establish broadband services within the areas that they operate.

How many municipal broadband providers operate in texas?

As of January 2021, there are 8 municipal broadband providers in operation in Texas. 6 of them provide broadband services to residential customers, and all but one of ther residential municipal broadband providers in Texas are electric cooperatives.


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Page Summary
  • There are 8 municipal broadband networks in the state of Texas.
  • 6 municipal broadband providers in Texas offer residential services.
  • Half of municipal broadband networks in Texas are Fiber to the Home (FTTH) networks.

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Last Update: October 19, 2021
Published: November 12, 2020
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