Despite aggressive lobbying efforts by big telephone and cable companies to derail these projects, Community Internet is thriving.
Efforts to restore communications in the wake of Hurricane Katrina have brought greater attention to these systems from public officials. Wireless networks were the only means available for communications among New Orleans city officials after their satellite phones failed. In addition, wireless networks were quickly established at shelters after the storm and are being used to help evacuees locate and communicate with loved ones at distant locations.
Free Press' interactive map links to short profiles of more than 270 Community Internet projects across the country. The map is the most comprehensive list of Community Internet and municipal broadband projects available. It shows projects operated by local governments, public-private partnerships, schools, non-profits and community groups. It includes wireless mesh networks, fiber to the home systems, and those using broadband over power lines.
“Community Internet is the future of all communications,” said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press. “In the near future, all media -- TV, telephone and the Web -- will be delivered to our homes via a broadband connection. These innovative projects are closing the digital divide and bringing much-needed competition to the broadband market.”
Big telecom and cable companies have responded by furiously working to slam the door on Community Internet. The telephone and cable giants are trying to use their lobbying clout in state capitals to pre-empt localities from offering the service, keep prices high and preclude competition. Fourteen states now have laws on the books restricting municipal broadband. Five states approved anti-municipal broadband measures in 2005. But in nine other states, attempts to restrict Community Internet were either defeated or delayed indefinitely.
The fight over Community Internet is now moving to Capitol Hill. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) recently introduced the Community Broadband Act of 2005 (S. 1294), which would “preserve and protect the ability of local governments to provide broadband capability and services.”
Free Press is mobilizing support of the bill, urging our members to contact their senators and ask them to co-sponsor the legislation. “The Community Broadband Act would ensure that local communities everywhere can decide for themselves how to best serve the technology needs of their citizens,” Scott said.