MUNICIPAL/COMMUNITY BROADBAND: THE FUTURE OF INTERNET FOR ALL

The combined impact of a two decade debate on network neutrality Is that that concept of the internet as a kind of public utility is now part of our imaginary. It’s not yet fully and legally enacted but as a concept… As an idea… That good quality internet service should be equally accessible to everyone Is something that every one of us has no choice but to think about. Network neutrality is merely the first battle in shaping the future of the internet.

Municipal wireless and community broadband have emerged as 2 strong concepts.. There is not yet a single shape to either of these ideas. They are just experiments towards the implementation of publicly accessible internet services… Like electricity, like water.

1. Should good quality internet access be treated as a fundamental right — that is a space where there is no difference in the quality of service based on class, neighborhood, region, locality, race, citizenship status etc.

2. Are municipal / community broadband concepts that we must push for and acting federal legislation? Why/ why not?

17 thoughts on “MUNICIPAL/COMMUNITY BROADBAND: THE FUTURE OF INTERNET FOR ALL

  1. Ever since the rise of the internet, it has become the main way that all people look up information, communicate, stream, and work. The internet has an abundance of information and resources that everyone is able to use with a simple search on any of the many browsers. A person can use browsers such as Bing, Google, and Yahoo for example to access the internet where all this information is stored. Unfortunately, many people are not able to access or afford the internet because of all the fees from providers. Providers such as Verizon charge high cost services and fees for the best internet. Whereas public internet in a library or town center works, but is not nearly as efficient as Verizon. Quality internet access should be treated as a fundamental right for everyone because certain people are being discriminated against. People in low income, minority, and immigrant communities are lacking the same quality internet as more wealthy individuals. If a person wants to pay extra money to stream faster or pay for more capabilities then that is fine, but the standard speed should be available to everyone. There needs to be a standard for the lowest internet services offered. For example, the FCC can implement certain policy and standards for download speeds, storage, and internet services that providers must abide by. According to a U.S. Census Bureau data, “Only 73% of U.S. homes had home-internet access with predominantly Asian and White households having access.” (GRI) This shows that minority classes are not given the same opportunity to access internet which robs them of finding out information to better their lives. If the federal government steps in and provides policy to enact good quality internet for all, then people would have access to information to better themselves and their lives since they have the resources to benefit their life.

    Municipal and community broadband is a concept that we must push for from the acting federal legislation because access to good quality internet is a must for people in all communities to have access to information. Municipal broadband internet is s connectivity network founded and implemented by government bodies. This acts as a citywide network where the community uses the internet that is in excess from the municipality or city. The citizens can use the services that are in excess from the taxpayer money to gain access to the internet. Community broadband is usually in smaller communities that allows for affordable bandwidth access by allowing governments to provide telecommunications capabilities. It is owned by the people in the community who live there. Since everyone pays taxes, there should be a push to give access to the internet by all from the FCC. The FCC can set up policy to allow for states and towns to allocate money specifically for providing internet for all. The state and local governments get a lot of tax dollars, so if there is excess money than it should go to helping the people getting internet as well. The federal legislation should also regulate the internet from the ISPs to give the consumers and content providers a fair opportunity to share information on the web.

    https://www.otelco.com/resources/a-municipal-broadband-guide/

    https://www.newamerica.org/oti/reports/community-broadband/introduction/

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    1. Hey Samuel,

      I agree with your thoughts in the second paragraph on community broadband. I grew up in a rural part of Pennsylvania, which is one of the 17 states that does not allow community broadband, so I grew up without internet, until wireless hotspots became available and popular. The idea that the large providers can lobby to make barriers against community broadband seems unfair and wrong. The local governments and people of the community should be able to make those decisions for themselves.

      However, I don’t completely agree with your first paragraph, stating quality internet access should be a fundamental right. As you stated, there are places to access the internet like a library or town center, if you need access. I also come from a position of some who did not have access to the internet at my house until I was 14. With that being said, the internet is a larger part of life now, but I know at most schools and workplaces if internet access is required at home, then the school or workplace will provide a solution for the student or employee. In my opinion if the internet is not being used for school or work, then it is not a necessity.

      https://muninetworks.org/communitymap

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    2. Samuel,

      Great write up. I particularly agree with your view point on how internet is now a class issue. And that lack of internet access will adversely affect the poor and working class. Internet access is now mandatory for most jobs in the job market. If not directly being used everyday, it is at the bare minimum, used for trainings, emails, zoom meetings, and form filling. These are essential parts of all current jobs in the marketplace and having access to complete these simple tasks is now a prerequisite. Denying, or not having internet access can hinder an individuals ability to educate themselves or strive for self improvement in modern society. At the bare minimum the state should provide internet access, or at the very least locations where the internet can be accessed easily within the community.

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  2. Just like free access to public libraries in the U.S.A., I strongly believe that good quality internet access should be treated as a fundamental right where it is considered as one of the basic human rights. Nowadays people rely heavily on Google to find any type of information they are looking for, which uses the Internet to have access to it. For example, if someone is trying to look up the train schedule, most of the time the information this person is looking for can be found online (via an app, for example), which (again) needs access to the Internet to get the answer. Therefore, people living in the U.S.A. should have not only good access to the Internet but also free access as well. This includes access to national news where people can keep posted on what’s going on within the country, access to wikipedia, and many more.

    “exercising free speech and obtaining information was now heavily dependent on having internet access (Science Daily)’

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191111084929.htm

    When we talk about good quality internet access, it means all levels of social statuses should have equal access.

    “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers (Howell & West).”

    https://www.brookings.edu/blog/techtank/2016/11/07/the-internet-as-a-human-right/

    Municipal and/or community broadband are the two concepts that we must push for and act federal legislation, especially right at this moment. The reason is because these are the least we could do in making the Internet to be completely free in the future as many functions take place online. For example, most of the political debates are aired online. If many people in the U.S. could not access to watch the online political debate, that means the country is limiting people’s free speech and simply just accept what parties and/or people told them to, especially the ones who have power.

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  3. I believe good quality internet access should be treated as a fundamental right because everyone should be able to access the same information. If we were to limit who receives good quality internet to those who can afford it, we are only further hindering uneducated people or people unable to receive quality internet. The internet provides a place where people can learn about current events and look up what to do in emergency situations.

    Municipal broadband is internet access owned by public entities and financed by local governments. Eighteen states have restrictive legislation that makes establishing municipal broadband difficult. One reason for preventing municipal broadbands is because there is a commercial provider already offering service. Community broadband is built for communities that want their own network and do not want to wait on private internet service providers to expand to their area. Community broadband can challenge ISPs to deliver higher quality and more affordable internet to compete with community broadband. These broadbands would be beneficial for the greater good of all people. The most realistic option is that the local municipalities decide whether operating their own broadband is the most beneficial option. Letting states decide means some states may have more broadband coverage than others, continuing the technology gap between people. Federal legislation would be a stronger option to ensure everyone receives the coverage they need.

    https://broadbandnow.com/report/municipal-broadband-roadblocks/

    https://www.newamerica.org/oti/reports/community-broadband/introduction/

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  4. Good quality internet service should be treated as a fundamental right. The internet was made for the public to access information and it has been a useful tool for societies all around the world. Within the United States, the Internet is probably the number one source for information, however, not every region or class on the U.S. are treated equally and do not have the same Internet speed. Telecommunication companies have profited off Internet speed for decades and caused a large gap for certain social classes and public companies with accessing their websites, applications, and services to end-users. The notion of good quality internet service being treated as a fundamental right is something that should not be understated and should be fought, while setting up important priorities, safeguards, and quality to the end-users.

    Municipal wireless/community broadband concepts are things that we must push for and place in federal legislation with the rights parameters and safeguards. It is important for communities to be able to have access to the Internet and be supported by the government for such access. However, it is up to the communities and municipalities and their respective government to play a part in these concepts because both parties have equal say and equal power. Lastly, it should be mentioned that safeguards and parameters be set up if these concepts do become legal because there will be public backlash if something not foreseen causes problem with the Internet service and how it impacts people’s daily lives.

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    1. Hi Jonathan,
      After reading your discussion post, I do agree with you when you make the argument that internet is and should be treated as a fundamental right for Americans. For being a “developed” country, everyone in America should be able to access free or low cost reliable internet. The government does have power over the statutes and regulations, so if they push for more requirements to be met in providing the internet, I am sure it can be accessible for everyone. The internet plays a very important part in everyday life now, so being without the internet can be challenging.

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  5. Today, a new right, unsuspected just a few decades ago, is also seeking recognition: the right to access the Internet. “Access to the Internet should be recognized as a human right because we live in the digital age, and so many other human rights simply could not be adequately realized without access to the Internet,” said Merten Reglitz, professor of global ethics at the University of Birmingham and author of an article (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/japp.12395) on the subject, in an interview with Equal Times.
    The researcher cites the example of access to health coverage in developing countries as one of those rights that can now be realized through technology. “For some people, especially in developing countries, the Internet has made it possible to access health services that would otherwise have been unavailable to them,” Reglitz says.
    I also think that the Internet is a right that should be fundamental. Internet is now a tool of expression, a tool of work, but a tool of comfort.
    Each country should I think make their populations equal or more or less when it comes to the issue of access to the Internet.
    The Federal Communications Commission has long regarded municipal broadband as a best practice for reaching communities that are unserved or underserved by high-speed internet. It is critical for communities to have access to the Internet and to be supported by the government in doing so.
    However, the telecom sector frequently leads lobbying efforts against municipal measures and advocates for state preemption of local broadband access legislation. Municipal broadband deployment is delayed and constrained by state regulations.
    So I think we should encourage Municipal wireless so that the populace has equal access to the internet.

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  6. Internet access is a human right . Especially with how much computer literacy is demanded from individuals in present day US . A large part of our communications are internet based and will continue to be for the foreseeable future . Lack of access to rural and lower income communities will restrict their ability to live and quality of life . It is imperative to make sure this inequality does not grow.

    One of the biggest issues I see with universal internet and Biden’s current plan to create internet for all , is large ISP companies . These companies (Verizon , Comcast , ATT) do not want to lose sales . Universal internet would greatly affect their share value and that will not be tolerated by these companies. An seemingly easy solution would be to give big ISPs government contracts on a per-town-basis to provide a lower grade internet speed for a whole town .

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    1. The internet definitely should be accessible to all. Going along with your point, internet access is a basic human right. With the internet being more important than ever before, it is certainly a driving case in modern life. Communication, relationships, and the workforce all depend on the internet to maintain stability. For example, communicating across boundaries is possible with just the click of a button, and these technologies seem to be advancing by the second. However, this access is not given to everyone as some people do not have the resources to obtain such newer technologies. This creates a rift between the two “worlds”. This distances the people with the internet from those without it, showing a much wider difference in the lives they live. This division keeps them from moving forward as well as they often aren’t able to obtain any of the jobs that center around internet communications (which is a large amount of the job sector). This keeps those without access from ever being able to gain access to modern technologies such as the internet.

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  7. I believe good quality internet access should be treated as a fundamental right because everyone should be able to access the same information. If we were to limit who receives good quality internet to those who can afford it, we are only further hindering uneducated people or people unable to receive quality internet. The internet provides a place where people can learn about current events and look up what to do in emergency situations. Being able to look up any information you need at any time is a very useful tool that everyone should be able to utilize.

    Municipal broadband is internet access owned by public entities and financed by local governments. Eighteen states have restrictive legislation that makes establishing municipal broadband difficult. One reason for preventing municipal broadband is that there is one commercial provider already offering the service. Community broadband is built for communities that want their own network and do not want to wait on private internet service providers to expand to their area. Community broadband can challenge ISPs to deliver higher quality and more affordable internet to compete with community broadband. These broadbands would be beneficial for the greater good of all people. The most realistic option is that the local municipalities would decide whether operating their own broadband is the most beneficial option. Letting states decide means some states may have more broadband coverage than others, continuing the technology gap between people. Federal legislation would be a more solid option to ensure all people receive the coverage they need.

    https://broadbandnow.com/report/municipal-broadband-roadblocks/

    https://www.newamerica.org/oti/reports/community-broadband/introduction/

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  8. I personally believe that in today’s current world, good quality internet access should be a fundamental right. Internet plays such a large role in people’s day to day lives these days that it is hard to imagine a world without access to it. Since so many people are connected to the internet every day in different ways, it would benefit a lot of different groups if they had free access whenever needed. If you think about the current pandemic, everyone was forced to move onto online work and school for an indefinite amount of time. Unfortunately, there were less fortunate groups who were unable to receive internet access, therefore it was hard for them to continue their work or school in the difficult time of the pandemic. If everyone had the same free access at this time, then everyone would have been able to continue their work. As I already stated, so many people use the internet throughout the day for different things so it would only make sense for everyone to have the same constant access to it.
    I think municipal/community broadband is also something that could be pushed for legislation. These concepts fall under the main idea that the internet should be accessible to everyone, regardless of demographics or geographies. The idea of community and municipal broadband is that specific areas can be granted with free internet access and wifi. For example, NYC has free wifi all over the main city/municipality. Providing this concept, especially for more low-income municipalities and living communities would be able to help a lot of people gain the internet access they need for adults to work their jobs or for students to do their homework a lot easier. This kind of internet access would be able to benefit these communities in the long run, and everyone should be allowed the right to have access to wifi and internet.

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  9. We as global citizens overwhelmingly agree that internet access is a fundamental human right. Despite this, an estimated 3.7 billion people worldwide are not connected to the internet (internet access data is largely limited to developed countries). Furthermore, this issue extends beyond low- and middle-income countries; more than 24 million Americans lack home broadband internet access.
    Inequities in access exist both within countries and between countries. These disparities in knowledge and opportunity disproportionately harm marginalized groups such as children, women, rural populations, Indigenous populations, and those in third-world countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated these widespread issues, including internet outages or total inaccessibility. The damage caused by this digital divide exemplifies why internet access is critical and should be considered a human right.

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  10. This won’t be odd to say that Internet has been one of our essentials for over the decade. We think of development and then we think of the internet. Now let’s understand what Municipal broadband is – some of the best internet providers are owned and run by the local governments. A 2015 White House study found that three out of four Americans had access to only one broadband provider offering speeds of at least 25 Mbps, the threshold for high-speed service recognized by the Federal Communications Commission so what was the solution to this problem? Introducing Municipal broadband. Under this towns and cities launch their own internet services. Some of the providers faced lawsuits from private service providers. So when everything is good, what’s the concern with Municipal broadband?
    The issue? – most taxpayers are at financial risk, and the foremost concern is many public broadband networks may be unable to cover their operating costs going forward.
    Community Broadband- As communities work to bridge the digital gap, some communities have turned to building their own networks rather than waiting for ISPs to provide the services. Community broadband can stimulate competition among ISPs, subsequently pushing down the prices for consumers.

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  11. In today’s world with the growing use of technology in every aspect of our lives, I do think that quality internet access should be treated as a fundamental right. People use technology constantly throughout the day, the differences in what people use is obviously determined by what they can afford, although just about everyone has at least one thing that uses the internet. Because you already have to purchase the devices in which internet services are required, internet access should be given to everyone. Making the internet more accessible to those with more money would potentially further the gap between different classes.
    We should be pushing for municipal / community broadband. Having these concepts in place would make it more clear that quality internet access is a right just as other fundamental rights have federal legislation. This would also benefit people of all ages. Specifics of having this in place could be delegated to all the separate communities so that it can be tailored to the people and made sure it is equal for all.

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  12. In the present world usage of internet is the major usage. Because without internet no person is living today. But there will be much difference between usage of municipal broadband and community broadband. Municipal broadband is nothing but it is an open network which is used by public but there will be restrictions in using some websites like Netflix, amazon prime, because those are restricted websites. Community broadbands are password protected because for community broadbands cannot be used by everyone.

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  13. I believe a municipal network has benefited us in many ways, either its sophisticated buildings, libraries, schools, and possibly fire, police, and any other facilities in the city. In fact it is also utilized for providing a strong connection between businesses and commercial entities; or it may expand to support the individuals of the municipality.
    As matter of fact when pandemic happened in 2020, it made a lot of business to go online for their survival. According to new census Bureau data, it reveals that in Q3 2021 , digital sales showed for more than 20 percent of all profit in retail spending. At the same time 2021 e-commerce numbers were comparatively decreased in comparison to 2020, they still made good business, comparatively higher in comparison to pre-pandemic levels. Although not every business were benefited because every business was not able to access reliable internet/network. National Federation of Independent Business and Google reported that approximately 8 percent—about 2-3 million—of U.S. small businesses was unable to have broadband internet. According to the study by US government accountability in office 2021, the businesses that does have an access to internet the FCC’s current broadband benchmark speeds could be very slow to fulfill their internet speed requirements. That means to have a broadband speeds faster, it will boost business growth with ecommerce opportunities, mobile apps and new marketing ideas. Also business can improve their websites which will open their doors for other opportunities.
    Additionally, a lot of school/colleges/universities went fully online that made the entire student learning through online classes and homework. Even many of the schools haven’t gotten back in person even now. However, in some rural areas many students and families lacked internet that caused them falling behind for their classes. So I think Municipal broadband can definitely solve these issues by providing an infrastructure that every family in the society can have full/equal access to inexpensive, dependable and fast fiber made internet. And study from home will be possible for every individual. Not only for education but municipal broadband internet can open the doors for the people by the providing the opportunity to begin their own online businesses or find any work from home jobs. Additionally these days, specifically after pandemic we have heard about agencies and healthcare Providers utilizing virtual communication (example zoom meetings, zocdoc) to stay in contact with their clients and patients. Although, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, more than one in six people in poverty do not have access to internet hence Municipal broadband would provide internet access to these poverty and underprivileged who can take benefits of these healthcare and human services easily.

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