August 22nd, 2008 | Published in Google Public Policy
Free Press' Craig Aaron has written an excellent article on the current state of municipal broadband in the United States. With the closing of Philadelphia's city-wide Wi-Fi project and some similar networks started by local governments, municipal broadband has gotten a bad rap publicly. But, as Aaron explains, it's a bum rap:
"A closer look at what’s happening at projects across the country -- public and private, wired and wireless, big and small -- suggests that it’s far too early to start the funeral arrangements. Much of the media are confusing the collapse of one company -- or one model of broadband deployment -- with the failure of the entire idea of municipalities providing high-speed Internet services."Rather than prematurely writing off the idea, it's important to critically study municipal networks' successes and shortcomings. As we've written about before, America generally lags behind the rest of the developed world in broadband penetration and speeds, and we ought to be exploring many different solutions, both private and public, to bring fast, affordable Internet access to everyone. The more experimentation, innovation, and competition in broadband deployment, the better.
Aaron considers some lessons we can learn from municipal broadband so far, and suggests how policymakers can clear a path for more innovation in this space. One of them is freeing the TV white spaces, enabling anyone to make use of these vacant radio airwaves and develop wireless Internet services. We believe this technology holds particular promise for those tens of millions of Americans living in more rural areas, and other underserved regions of the country. Earlier this week, we launched a campaign to help educate the public, and give ordinary consumers a voice on this critical policy issue. If you want to learn more, please visit FreeTheAirwaves.com.