When we started to hear rumors that the White House was investigating community owned networks, we were excited but not sure what to expect. I have to admit that seeing President Obama – the President of the United States – saying that Cedar Falls was smart to invest in themselves was much more powerful than I ever expected (see the video below).
The efforts of so many people to legitimize community networks are now paying off. Belittled by the big cable companies and their paid experts, we certainly were not destined to reach this point. But we are here – and everyone now recognizes that local governments can play an important role in ensuring we all have great Internet access.
The White House has released a fact sheet with some information on what the Executive Branch will do to increase competition and restore local authority.
Laws in 19 states — some specifically written by special interests trying to stifle new competitors — have held back broadband access and, with it, economic opportunity. Today, President Obama is announcing a new effort to support local choice in broadband, formally opposing measures that limit the range of options available to communities to spur expanded local broadband infrastructure, including ownership of networks. As a first step, the Administration is filing a letter with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging it to join this effort by addressing barriers inhibiting local communities from responding to the broadband needs of their citizens.
And the National Economic Council and Council of Economic Advisers have released a report discussing the important contributions of community owned networks [PDF]. You might see some familiar references in the report – we are excited to see our work contributing to national policy.
This is a great moment for everyone that has worked on these networks – from local government employees and elected officials to the activists and local business owners that have volunteered their time to make it happen in their community. This is a great moment for the principle of local self-reliance.