In the ongoing battle over Net Neutrality - whether all Internet users will be treated the same or not - consumers are getting stuck in the middle again.
Throughout the country, companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, CenturyLink, and Verizon have signed agreements with cities that prohibit local governments from becoming internet service providers and prohibit municipalities from selling or leasing their fiber to local startups who would compete with these huge corporations.
Because ISPs often double as cable and telephone companies, during contract negotiations with governments, they'll often offer incentives to the government—such as better or faster service, earlier access to (their company's) cable internet for residents, and the like—in exchange for a non-compete clause.
That means that some cities themselves could already be offering high-speed, fiber-optic Internet. But although some of them are doing so now (as pictured in the map below), many won't, because they signed agreements with cable companies not to.
According to MuniNetworks, a group that tracks community access to fiber nationwide, at least 20 states have laws or other regulatory barriers that make it illegal or difficult for communities to offer fiber access to their residents. Even in states where there are no official rules, non-compete agreements between government and big business are common.