Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Yes, Time Warner IS Trying to Ban Community Networks

When I blogged about the truly inspiring Institute for Local Self-Reliance a few days ago and its Community Broadband Map, I suggested that big telcos were trying to put a stop to people creating their own networks in the places that the big telcos refuse to serve.

Some people found that hard to believe (some of them young people who still seem to think American corporations are all about free markets and level playing fields). So here is a dose of reality people, as reported by the terrific website that is the source of the sadly "too-true" cartoon you see here. The site is Stop the Cap:
Time Warner Cable’s custom-written bill banning community-owned broadband networks in North Carolina this afternoon received a favorable vote in the Public Utilities Committee... Read the full report here.
Yes, you read that correctly. Time Warner Cable is trying to get a law passed to outlaw community-owned networks. This is the same company that told me, in writing, to take a hike when I ordered commercial-grade cable service from them. (Okay, they did not use those exact words, they just told me it would cost more than $100,000 to connect me, even though I am less than 5 miles from their nearest connection point and there are dozens of other willing customers between that point and me.)

So all of you out there enjoying Time Warner Cable Internet and Verizon FiOS just remember, your broadband provider is actively seeking to stop rural communities from helping themselves while simultaneously denying those communities the kind of broadband you enjoy.

And think of my neighbors, paying 5X what you pay for broadband and getting 1/20 of the service you get. Now think about this: If those companies can get away with treating those communities so badly, how long will it take them to start behaving equally badly toward you?

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?