To sum up:
Sweden has spent ($UNKNOWN_QUANTITY) to achieve commendable broadband speeds for 57% of its households - probably that's more than 57% of its population since they presumably began in the denser areas, but let's say it's around 7 million of their 9.6 million people.
This is like wiring several major cities in Texas, or, as the article points out, 2/3 of North Carolina. Sweden's population density is less, true, but the sheer amount of labor required to lay fiber for 174,000 square miles (Sweden) versus the 3,794,000 square miles of the United States seems like it might be relevant.
We can all applaud the result, but having no idea what it cost them, I am not sure how we can even begin to make an Apples-to-Apples comparison. What conclusion are we meant to draw? That municipal broadband is a good idea? So many localities and states have tried their hand at it and lost so much money that 22 states now have laws on the books forbidding it. But there are two separate conversations going on here.
Conversation #1 is: 'How do we grow the availability of broadband in the United States in a rapid and efficient manner?'
Conversation #2 is: 'How do we provide the human right of broadband Internet to everybody?'
Here in Austin, we've now got AT&T and Google offering a gigabit for under $100/mo and Time Warner just upped their max speed from 50 to 300 megabits without raising prices. How did this happen? Is Austin special and magical and is it easier to lay fiber here?
Nope: anybody who has ever tried to dig a hole 'round these parts knows the sound of a shovel hitting limestone. Rather, Google got the government to agree to get out of the way. Within a period of a year, AT&T and Time Warner went from a duopoly offering fairly decent service (compared to previous experiences in cities where you had only one choice) to very high levels of service at the same price point.
I don't know anybody who loves AT&T or their cable company and we can decry 'profit motive' all we want, but it seems to me that the trouble with comparisons to places like Sweden is that, in Sweden, they accepted up front that any price is just fine for the infrastructure, so long as the final product has a monthly cost that is palatable -- never mind that the actual cost is surely hidden somewhere inside of Sweden's income tax rates of 31-56% or its VAT of 25%.
All perfectly fine for Swedes if that's what they decided, but it seems that lots of folks are just looking at the final sticker price of $40 and declaring government-run broadband the way to go. It is of course an attractive suggestion that gross executive compensation at AT&T or Comcast is responsible for your $90 or $100 Internet service in the US and that only government intervention will stop these Internet robber-barons from keeping us all down. But it might not kill you to talk to some engineers at these companies to learn about how their company spends money -- and also why Google placed such a premium on finding local governments that were cooperative. There's a reason California and New York won't be seeing Google Fiber anytime soon.
It seems to me that Google has the right idea here: the more people you can induce to pay for your top tier service, the more you can give away your bottom-tier (but still quite useful) service.