For years now broadband internet services providers have spent millions lobbying to prevent government regulations from being established. Utility regulations are generally created in order to protect consumers from bad service and price gouging. Recently however several ISPs including USTelecom and the NTCA have begun arguing that internet service is essential to the american lifestyle and is similar to the electric, water, sewer, and gas utilities. But in these services providers perspective broadband does not require additional regulation, rather it deserves utility-like status as a pretense to establish additional funding from the US government.
The CEO of USTelecom Jonathan Spalter and the CEO of NTCA Shirley Bloomfield recently submitted an editorial to the Topeka Capital-Journal stating "Like electricity, broadband is essential to every American. Yet US broadband infrastructure has been financed largely by the private sector without assurance that such costs can be recovered through increased consumer rates.". "Broadband providers need a committed partner to finish the job of connecting unserved communities. That partner should be all of us as Americans—in the form of our government."
In addition to access to government funding, the ISPs want the additional benefits normally afforded to the utilities such as access to pole attachment and public rights of way. They are of course not interested in the normal style of utility regulation that regulate prices and full deployment to all US Citizens. "Utility regulation over broadband can only inhibit incentives for network investment," AT&T 2017.
While the broadband providers are quick to dismiss government regulations over them, they are quick to lobby state governments to pass laws in 20 states restricting the ability for municipal broadband to be established. Spalter and Bloomfield echoed similar sentiments stating "This private-led investment model often works well for projects in reasonably populous areas. But Significant barriers arise as economies of scale dissipate." While their comments are logically sound it does not excuse the actions of their companies.
Will broadband service be given a sudo-utility status resulting in millions of tax payer dollars going into the pockets of the major providers? It remains to be seen, but as with other major technology rights issues in the past, a large enough disapproval from the American public will cause appropriate actions to be taken.