The conservative, eminently pro-capitalist publication The Economist understands why community broadband is important. “The Need for Speed” discusses Kansas City and Chattanooga — two of the best broadband networks in the nation.
But while others have become stuck on the wrong question — “what can you do with a gig,” The Economist recognized what is important.
This suggests that the true benefits of municipal high-speed networks are not the consumer-friendly baubles such as high-speed video downloads, HDTV and the like, but the vast range of possibilities they open. Over the fibre network is a wireless mesh that allows government, so often wary of innovation, to try new approaches. Police in Chattanooga have vastly expanded their communications and mobile data analysis. Traffic lights will soon be able to respond in real time to changing traffic patterns. Rubbish can be collected more efficiently. EPB can avoid, or minimise, power cuts during storms, and can charge its customers more accurately and transparently. This sort of network can improve a city’s operations while broadening its tax base. Results like that are well worth a dunk in a shark tank.
This is about so much more than downloads. Whenever you read someone asking “what can you do with a gig,” you are reading someone who doesn’t get it. It is like asking why anyone would buy a muscle car. We got speed limits! Why get a car that can go faster than the limit?
I have never maxed out the amount of electricity coming into my house. Am I doing something wrong? Our connections should be built so they do not limit us. Instead, those defending the massive companies that rip us off every month demand to know how we would use a better connection.
Community networks are not just about faster connections – they are about a network that the community owns, that empowers the community to innovate, and that is focused 100% on empowering local businesses and residents.