Cities investigating community fiber networks are used to scurrilous attacks from both incumbents and anti-government "think tanks," which are often directly funded by private service providers. Usually the attacks aren't as silly as the one that the John Locke Foundation levied against Salisbury, North Carolina.
Though attacks on community broadband from anti-government groups are common, this report betrays either a stunning lack or technical expertise on the part of the writers, or an assumption that the reader is totally ignorant. Fortunately, Salisbury has confronted them head on, as should any community in a similar position.
Many private, often incumbent and monopolistic, providers use the term "level playing field" as code for ensuring communities are unable to build their own networks. They do not actually want a "level playing field," they want more advantages for their businesses.
Consider the fight in 2009 over this issue in North Carolina:
HB 1252 would create extraordinary financial accounting and administrative burdens on municipal broadband providers that would render their existence fiscally difficult, if not impossible. The bill also subjects municipalities to the new jurisdiction of the North Carolina Utilities Commission, while not requiring the same of private providers. Also troubling is the injunctive relief provision, which could encourage litigation for purposes of gaining competitive advantage. Furthermore, the legislation appears to prevent municipalities from pursuing alternative funding sources, such as broadband grant programs included in the Federal stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Source: Save NC Broadband Blog
While big companies like Time Warner Cable pretend to be the underdog compared to community networks, the reality is that big national corporations have far more advantages than any local government. We created this video to illustrate the point:
Cable and telephone companies are able to cross-subsidize their networks - they can charge more in the areas they serve where there are no competitors in order to charge less in a competitive community. Numerous state and federal laws prohibit public entities from cross subsidizing across services. Further, when private companies are forced to have open meetings and disclose their business plans like their public sector counterparts, we will be closer to a "level playing field."
InternetforEveryone.org is working to shed light on the millions of Americans who live without regular Internet access or lack the training or equipment to get online. A small reporting team is traveling to communities across the country to tell people's stories. Free Press' Megan Tady interviewed residents of Los Angeles, Calif., and Washington, D.C. On this site, you can follow our trek and get an up-close view of America’s urban digital divide. InternetforEveryone.org is working to shed light on the millions of Americans who live without regular Internet access or lack the training or equipment to get online. A small reporting team is traveling to communities across the country to tell people's stories.
Free Press' Megan Tady interviewed residents of Los Angeles, Calif., and Washington, D.C. On this site, you can follow our trek and get an up-close view of America’s urban digital divide.
Jim Baller and Casey Lide of the Baller Herbst Law Group produced this tremendous white paper for e-NC. It covers the importance of broadband, relationship to economic development, and offers some recommendations.
This entire site has been greatly informed by this paper. It collects many important examples of how important broadband is and the communities that have greatly benefited by taking action to build networks that responded to their needs.
Although it does not explicitly recommend public owned networks, it provides the foundation for what broadband can offer. This foundation is useful for understanding why privately owned, unaccountable networks are inferior to those that are rooted in the community.