As you check Facebook, watch a YouTube video or stream a movie tonight, think about the future of broadband and how important it is to you, your business and your community. As cable and telephone companies continue to merge into bigger and bigger entities, they control more and more of our internet access.
In 2000, 3% of the US adult population had access to a broadband connection at home. As of August 2013 70% of US adults accessed the internet at home through a broadband connection, while only 3% used dial-up. Our reliance on these connections has grown in our personal lives, but also in the welfare of our businesses and our local communities.
Broadband has become a critical infrastructure for local communities to prosper. The demand from commerce, education, government and healthcare for more reliable and affordable internet access is pushing local governments to look at new ways to connect their citizens.
Those communities without access or dated systems will find it more difficult to attract and retain business, provide modern healthcare and quality education.
Many local governments and communities have taken the lead in building next generation broadband infrastructure. In more than 100 cities and towns across America, a public entity provides services to homes and businesses throughout the community.
In many hundreds more, the local government provides cutting-edge communications services to such key community facilities as schools, libraries, hospitals, and senior centers.
These public broadband networks in cities and rural towns are providing some of the fastest broadband connections to residents, businesses, and community anchor institutions.
On Monday, 32 local governments announced a partnership with Next Century Cities, an initiative billing itself as a bipartisan effort “dedicated to ensuring the availability of next-generation broadband internet for all communities.”
Recently, Chattanooga, Tenn., and Wilson, N.C., issued requests to the FCC to preempt state laws restricting their ability to provide broadband service.The FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has signaled that he wants to use the FCC’s power to preempt what he believes are efforts by incumbent ISPs to block municipal broadband. No surprise, the incumbents are advocating for those restrictive state laws.
In response, a group of a dozen Republican senators expressed concerns about Wheeler’s plan, holding that it’s a state's rights issue. Is that the issue? Or are the cable and telephone companies that currently control the majority of the broadband in the US the issue?
Next Century Cities in a statement said that it believes “there is no single pathway to a smart, effective approach to next- generation broadband. What matters is meaningful choice, dedicated leadership, and smart collaboration.”
They believe that:
High-Speed Internet Is Necessary Infrastructure: fast, reliable, and affordable internet – at globally competitive speeds – is no longer optional. Residents, schools, libraries, and businesses require next-generation connectivity to succeed.
The Internet Is Nonpartisan: because the internet is an essential resource for residents and businesses in all communities, the provision of fast, reliable, and affordable internet transcends partisanship.
Communities Must Enjoy Self-Determination: broadband solutions must align with community needs—there is no perfect model that is universally appropriate. Towns and cities should have the right to consider all options – whether public, nonprofit, corporate, or some other hybrid – free from interference.
As cable companies lose subscribers, they have scrambled to control the broadband available in the US. Knowing that Americans still need internet access, they see big profits in controlling its future.
Should broadband be controlled by a few corporations or by the local communities?
Does your community provide broadband access?