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Three relatively unassuming communities in the American South have built globally competitive broadband networks that offer some of the best prices and fastest connections in the county.
Frustrated by ever-increasing prices for telecommunication services and the reluctance of incumbent providers to upgrade their networks to meet 21st century needs, more than 150 communities have built their own citywide cable and FTTH networks. Against great odds and in the face of ferocious opposition by the existing telephone and cable companies in the courts, at the legislature, and in the marketplace, the vast majority have succeeded.
To understand how this has occurred and to extract lessons that might be useful for cities deciding whether to build their own networks, we undertook an in-depth examination of three municipally owned networks in Bristol Va., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Lafayette, La. Each of these communities already had access to the Internet via DSL and cable. But in the words of Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel, “They wanted more.” Without investment in next-generation networks, these cities feared they would be left behind in the transition to the digital economy of the Internet era.
In each of these cases, the local public power utility took the lead in creating the new network—a characteristic of nearly every citywide publicly owned community fiber network in America. Each community had to navigate difficult seas, buffeted by lawsuits that dragged out construction schedules, state legislation that imposed additional burdens on public networks, and huge corporate competitors benefiting from a multitude of scale advantages. In each of these cases, the communities found their network to be a major economic development asset, generating or preserving hundreds of well paying jobs.
|Publisher:||Institute for Local Self-Reliance|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||5 MB|
About the Author
He has worked as a server administrator, web geek, and in various other technical capacities. He earned a Master's degree in Public Policy, focusing on science and technology policy, from the Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Macalester College.
Mitchell has spoken at conferences across the United States on the subject of publicly owned broadband, occasionally to directly debate opponents of public ownership. He has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines.
Mitchell's work has earned him recognition from the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisers and Government Technology, which named him one of the nation's Top 25 Doers, Dreamers, and Drivers of public sector technology in 2012.
On a day-to-day basis, Mitchell runs a website dedicated to community broadband issues at MuniNetworks.org. His most recent publication has three in-depth case studies of the community fiber networks in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Lafayette, La.; and Bristol, Va.
In May, 2010, he published a comprehensive report on publicly owned broadband networks titled “Breaking the Broadband Monopoly: How Communities Are Building the Networks They Need.”