Britt Blaser has an excellent essay up now on the real reasons for building community broadband networks. Qwest, Comcast, and other private providers of service want you to think it's about keeping government out of competition with private providers. But as Britt rightly points out, it's really about public discourse and building the infrastructure to support it:
If you believe in public discourse, you are. Let's not fall into the trap of defending technical and turf issues when the real issue is whether a people united deserves an Agora. We can join together to push harder on the politicians we elect than do the lobbyists and consultants the politicians think they must please.
I want to start with a conversation about whether New Yorkers have an inalienable right to equip themselves to participate in the global conversation at a rate typical of a leading first-world nation, rather than at the level of a trailing first-world nation. (Actually, I want more than a conversation, because there's too much conversation on the web and not enough action. I want a forum with real political power: one where, after our solution becomes obvious, we have the specific means to compel the politicians to get off their expensive asses and do something useful.)From Escapable Logic
Referenced Wed Aug 17 2005 06:56:39 GMT-0600 (MDT)
I've written about this same issue before in regards to iProvo and Utopia (two community broadband projects in Utah), although not as eloquently as Brit. One of my main points has been that carriers are building walled gardens, not the agora, as Britt puts it, that we need to enable so many important public activities. What's more important, they never will.
I sat in an Orem City Council meeting over a year ago and listened to a representative from Comcast tell them about all the wonderful things Comcast was doing
to for Orem residents. And it was wonderful--on the surface. If you listened carefully, however, the message, loud and clear, was this: we build the products, you pay us money to consume them. In other words, Comcast's vision was completely unidirectional. There was no sense of the broadband network as an infrastructure where anyone could produce interesting things (like blogs, video, podcasts, etc.) and distribute them. Comcast's vision was all about a one-way street where deliveries were made but packages were never picked up. Maybe instead of "walled gardens" a more apt metaphor would be "roach motels."
Britt's piece isn't just an essay, however, its a call to action. Specifically, a call to support Andrew Rasiej's campaign for NYC Public Advocate. If we are not willing to support (vote and donate) to people who understand technology and what powers innovation, then we'll get the nation we deserve. (See my post on Beating Hatch.) I went over to Rasiej's site, found him to be just that kind of guy and made a donation.