Community Networks are the Path to Competition in Broadband and Cable Television

Date: 26 May 2009 | posted in: information, MuniNetworks | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

"Community Owned Networks Benefit Everyone," an article written by Christopher Mitchell to explain why community networks are the only means of spurring true competition in the broadband cable television sector, appeared in the Spring 2009, NATOA Journal.  NATOA is the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors.  Article excerpt:

Though creating competition may be a factor, communities have invested in broadband for a variety of reasons.  Being subject to a democratic purpose, closed community networks are inherently different from closed private networks.  Community networks are accountable to the public. 

The mayor and city council are more accessible than the corporate executives making decisions for a national telco or cableco. Whereas consumers only have the choice of unsubscribing from a private company’s services, citizens have more opportunities to redress grievances against a community network.

Mike Basham of Wilson’s Greenlight network in North Carolina, has described this as “the strangle effect.”  If something goes wrong, you can find someone to strangle.  Unlike the major cable and phone companies, problems on a community network tend to be handled quickly and locally – which usually prevents a customer from wanting to strangle anyone. 

Aside from better customer service, these networks are crucial for community institutions.  When Wisconsin’s Reedsburg network was finished, local schools saved money by switching from expensive T-1s to 100Mbps lines from the utility.  This is a 70x speed increase that lowered their monthly bills. 


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Christopher Mitchell

Christopher Mitchell is the Director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. He runs as part of ILSR's effort to ensure broadband networks are directly accountable to the communities that depend upon them.