In the News: Christopher Mitchell
February 12th, 2018
Media Outlet: The Patriot Ledger
Quincy, Massachusetts is looking toward the neighboring community of Braintree and their municipal broadband network. In Erin Tiernan’s story on local connectivity in Quincy, she reached out to our Community Broadband Networks initiative director Christopher Mitchell for context on what developing a municipal broadband network can entail.
Here are Christopher’s contributions:
On the South Shore, Braintree excluded, most residents and businesses can choose between ComCast or Verizon for internet service. It’s a limited choice, but more than what’s available to most Americans. A 2015 White House study found three out of every four Americans had access to only one high-speed internet provider.
BELD – the Braintree Electric Light Department – gives residents in that town another broadband choice, along with gas, cable and electric service. It also gives consumers a voice in whether the company maintains the principles of net neutrality going forward.
“If Netflix worked poorly, BELD customers would call the board, the mayor, the council, and policy would change very quickly,” said Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a Minnesota think-tank that advocates for local control. He said customers of municipally-owned internet service providers like BELD are at an advantage amid the mounting uncertainty of how providers will deliver content in a world without net neutrality regulations.
The repeal of net neutrality means internet providers are free to arbitrarily block content, create “fast lanes” for websites willing to pay more and reduce speeds for certain customers based on their browsing – a technique known as “throttling” used to manage the amount a bandwidth a particular customer uses.
But BELD General Manger Bill Bottiggi said local customers wouldn’t put up with those practices. “We don’t throttle, we don’t sell fast lanes, and we won’t. As a municipal utility, we are here for the benefit of our residents, not for a board of shareholders,” he said.
Pro-industry advocates say fears of content blocking and speed throttling by big-name internet service providers are just that – fears; companies like Comcast and Verizon have repeatedly voiced commitment to an open internet. But Mitchell said without net neutrality regulations, nothing holds them to it.
An open internet is one reason his organization supports municipal networks. “They are far less likely to engage in discrimination of content,” he said. …