In the article “Neutrality and municipalities”:1, Ed Gubbins reports about the interplay between the fight for Network Neutrality and the various municipal wirelessless and municipal network initiatives that have launched around the country:
bq. Inflamed by countless bloggers and sizzling beneath the spotlight of congressional hearings, debate over network neutrality reached a boiling point this month as no less an authority than Vinton Cerf — one of the Internet’s founding fathers and a current employee of net neutrality advocate Google — warned the Senate’s Commerce Committee that incumbent carrier control of broadband networks could “fundamentally undermine” the Internet as we know it.
bq. With this dramatic stride upstage, the net neutrality debate — and its attendant fears about censorship, prices and consumer choice — could fuel interest in municipally owned broadband networks as an alternative to privately owned pipes. However, net neutrality proponents may find public networks to be fraught with plenty of their own problems as well.
bq. “[The] network neutrality [debate] is not a fuel for the municipal broadband movement in the U.S.,” said Pam Baker, and analyst for visiongain. “It’s a … stumbling block. Cities and communities need technology companies’ expertise, experience and money to build, operate and maintain [municipal broadband networks], but they cannot afford to give those companies total, or even majority, control. To do so would be perceived as governmental favoritism, which is seen as equally destructive as government competition with private companies. Yet cities repeatedly fail when they attempt to provide [muni broadband networks] themselves.”
bq. In addition, even wholesale municipal network models don’t necessitate net neutrality. It’s conceivable, at least in theory, that municipalities could seek to defray part of the cost of their broadband networks by following AT&T’s lead, charging content providers for premium use of networks.
There’s a big difference between municipal networks and those provided by incumbent telcos and cable companies, and it has nothing to do with technology. Municipal networks are:
# Operated for the good of citizens, often providing the cheapest (and also the highest speed, surprisingly) alternative for internet connectivity
# Responsible to elected officials, who are themselves responsible to voters
Private networks, on the other hand, are:
# Operated for the good of stockholders, often providing internet connectivity for the highest price the marketplace will profitably bear (which always means serving less than 100% of a community).
# Responsible only to stockholders and senior management, who are themselves responsible to no one
# Always monopolies or duopolies in the marketplace, which means that we, as consumers, can’t use our dollars to exert pressure on them
Indeed, “Jim Baller”:2, who has been “leading the fight to protect local choice”:3 from being skewered by incumbent telcos who have been pushing cookie cutter legislation at the state level, speaks clearly about the importance of the net neutrality issue:
bq. “In the past, net neutrality was an intellectual exercise,” Baller said. “It was [called] a solution without a problem. Now, thanks in part to the statements of incumbent [carrier CEOs], people are beginning to realize it’s not just an academic debate; it’s a very important one.”
Filed under: Muniwireless, News, Policy