|>>|| No. 65406
Public libraries came into existence when most people just couldn't afford books at all - the alternative to using the library wasn't buying a book, it was just not reading at all. Libraries made books cheaper to publish and print, because they increased demand and improved the economies of scale of the publishing industry; by increasing the overall market and reducing marginal costs, they were ultimately beneficial to the book trade.
Broadband is extremely sensitive to economies of scale, because the cost of running a national network is mostly fixed regardless of how many customers you have. A free network creates a death spiral for commercial providers - the more customers switch to the free network, the more you have to charge your remaining customers to maintain your network, so the more attractive the free option becomes.