Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance: An idea whose time has come?

Anyone who has spent time trying to get companies to bring broadband to their rural community will know that it can be a lot like banging your head against a wall. The telcos are not interested. Legislators are either powerless or in the pocket of the telcos.

And we are now hearing rumors that a lot of the rural broadband stimulus money went to "mapping studies" and "feasability projects" carried out by organizations fronting for telcos. Expect a series of reports in the next few years that declare "broadband access solved for most rural Americans" even as the decline of rural narrowband ghettos proceeds apace.

Yes, it's grim out there if you have no broadband in your community and for many people the answer is clearly not going to be the telcos or the stimulus program or even the recently announced wireless initiative. The answer may well lie in our own hands: local initiatives.

One organization that is helping folks head down that road is the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. They have a project called Community Broadband Networks. This project offers a lot of hope, some of it in the form of an impressive map of local broadband operations around the country.
This is the first map to comprehensively show the broadband networks that are structurally designed to meet community needs first. Most of the networks are owned by local governments, but nonprofit networks will also be incorporated over time.
Take a look. It is encouraging. I looked at one pin on the map as an example, a small town in Pennsylvania called Kurtztown that installed Fiber to the Home (FTTH) in 2002. This is a good example because it shows what happens when you go down this road: The telcos try to stop you!

That tells you these projects must be doing something right...and fiber to the home, in a small town? What better lifestyle could there be?

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