Media Outlet: Motherboard Vice
Motherboard Vice covers our latest report on Internet access. The report details why millions of Americans have no good option for high-quality Internet access, despite government subsidies. Karl Bode, spoke with Christopher Mitchell, the director for the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, for his perspective on what communities can do.
Here are Mitchell’s contributions:
The nation’s six biggest providers (Comcast, CenturyLink, Frontier, AT&T, Verizon, and Charter) have “invested the bare minimum to comply with requirements while more significantly upgrading urban markets,” the group notes. “Meanwhile, cooperatives and local ISPs that have received far fewer subsidies have invested much more in rural communities.”
Here too ISPs have lobbied to thwart progress. Countless towns and cities have begun building and operating their own broadband networks in the wake of incumbent apathy, only to run face first into laws passed in 21 states banning them from doing so. These laws are often quite literally written by the same ISPs that refused to upgrade these areas in the first place.
More than 750 communities nationwide have built and operate their own broadband networks, and a recent Harvard study highlighted how these networks tend to offer better, cheaper, and more uniformly deployed service than their private industry counterparts.
The ILSR report notes that while larger, private ISPs tend to do the bare minimum to meet subsidy compliance requirements in under-served markets, cooperatives, municipal ISPs, and locally-owned providers “tend to invest in longer-term next-generation services that well exceed the minimum definition of broadband” due to a genuine interest in local welfare.
The battle between Americans eager for better broadband and monopolies like Comcast focused on defending the broken status quo has raged for decades. And as Ajit Pai and his assault on consumer protections makes clear, the pendulum has swung pretty sharply in Comcast’s favor during the Trump era.
The solution, according to ILSR founder Christopher Mitchell, is to stop whining on Reddit, get out of your chair, and begin taking action where giants like Comcast are weakest: locally.
“It sucks to tell someone in this situation that they have to become an organizer, hound their elected officials, or scout for good local companies to potentially partner with in expanding access,” Mitchell tells Motherboard. “But that is what happens in a working democracy.”