Imagine if Borders and Barnes & Noble, claiming it was killing their book sales, asked lawmakers to ban cities from building libraries. The legislators would laugh them out of the State House. Yet the same thing is happening right now with respect to Wi-Fi and other municipal broadband plans, and it is being taken all too seriously. In fact, although it is almost universally acknowledged that broadband access is essential to economic growth and education, phone and cable companies are lobbying furiously to prohibit municipalities from providing free or discounted broadband to their residents.
Ford Foundation Annual Report Promotes Publicly Owned Networks
The Ford Foundation has recognized the important contribution of publicly owned broadband networks to improving affordable, reliable, and fast access to the Internet in communities throughout the US. Using data that we helped to gather, they have launched a single map identifying publicly owned networks around the country and showing states with barriers to such networks.
Ford Foundation explores the context around the map here:
The stakes on this issue are high, and the questions are complex—making the involvement of philanthropy especially important. Questions are emerging, for example, about the lack of market competition, and what appears to be the resulting failure to provide good service to rural and working communities. Some localities are responding by establishing municipal broadband networks that meet the infrastructure needs of their citizens and ensure that local businesses and families are not left behind. Our grantee partners are informing debates on issues like these, where the real future of Internet rights is being determined—and where the public interest can easily get lost.
We look forward to seeing this map add more communities as they take responsibility for their digital future.