Date: 20 Feb 2012 | posted in: MuniNetworks | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Access to the Internet is an essential infrastructure for any community that cares about economic development, quality of life, and educational opportunities. Unfortunately, most communities are presently dependent on a few unaccountable absentee corporations that act as gatekeepers to the Internet.

Communities are increasingly building their own networks, using a variety of approaches. From municipal ownership to cooperatives to other nonprofit approaches, communities are building next-generation networks that are directly accountable to residents and local businesses. These networks offer some of the fastest connections to the Internet available in the U.S. even as they keep prices affordable for television, telephone, and broadband services.

ILSR defends the right of communities to build these networks without states or the federal government creating unique barriers that apply only to public sector providers. The majority of our online work in this space appears on a dedicated site run by ILSR – Community Broadband Networks.

The DSL and cable companies continually try to limit local authority to build and own telecommunications networks, just as the big electric trusts tried to limit local authority to build electrical grids 100 years ago. These few corporations want to limit competition so they can control access to information in the modern age.

We work with communities to document and spread the best community approaches from the technology employed to the policies and businesses models that have proven most effective. We educate activists, policymakers, and the media about these technical issues from wonky economics to geeky technology. Unlike vendors and many consultants in this space, our focus is not simply to encourage communities to build networks but rather to make smart decisions that are appropriate for each unique community as part of a larger strategy to encourage local self-reliance.

Much of the content in this initiative on Ilsr.org is excerpted from the posts, reports, and other materials that appear on MuniNetworks.org.

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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 MuniNetworks.org as part of ILSR's effort to ensure broadband networks are directly accountable to the communities that depend upon them.