A few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet some of the folks from the Personal Telco Project in Portland, Oregon. They have been around for a long time and do excellent work.
This is how they describe themselves:
The Personal Telco Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Portland, Oregon dedicated to the idea that people have a central role in how their networks are operated. We do that by building our own networks that we share with our communities, and by helping to educate others in how they can too. To date, we have done this using Wi-Fi technology. We began in 2000 by turning our own houses and apartments into wireless hotspots (or "nodes"), and then set about building networks in public locations such as parks and coffee shops. There are currently about 100 active nodes participating in our project. We would like to see people and businesses in every corner and on every block of the city participating.
They have been involved in the discussion in Portland over how the City can ensure all residents and businesses have access to affordable, reliable, and fast connections to the Internet.
I was just reminded of them by a video that discusses their work and some of the reasons communities need to build their own networks (below). They also have a YouTube channel with more videos about community broadband.