Morning reads 7 August 2012: community broadband and Decatur WiFi

Communities should roll out and own their broadband networks

Sascha Meinrath, long-time contributor to MuniWireless and frequent speaker at our conferences, has written an article with Christopher Mitchell, entitled “Want to Pay Less and Get More” about how the model of community-owned broadband networks allow people to pay less money for better and faster broadband service, especially in rural areas.

Meinrath and Mitchell attack the current model of broadband deployment in the United States, which is based upon giving huge subsidies to telecom operators, who take a long time to roll out fiber networks and avoid neighborhoods where poor Americans live (and areas that are sparsely populated). A better model for rural broadband deployment and ownership is the local co-op, which is nothing new in US history. It was through the local cooperative that rural counties in America got electricity. Here is a quote from the article:

Rural fiber-optic networks are often built by local co-ops, not big corporations, which have all but abandoned isolated communities. AT&T’s CEO was open on a call to investors in January when he stated, “We’ve all been trying to find a broadband solution that was economically viable to get out to rural America, and we’re not finding one, to be quite candid.” Verizon wants to go further, pulling copper wires off the poles in many rural areas so they can force households onto more expensive (and less regulated) cellular data plans.

Decatur’s WiFi network should pull out of residential areas, concentrate on downtown

Decatur is planning to make changes to its public Wi-Fi network, which was created in 2008 but is now obsolete. Assistant City Manager Andrea Arnold proposed pulling out of residential neighbourhoods (where outdoor Wi-Fi isn’t needed) and upgrading only the downtown part of the network.

Earlier story about Decatur’s network:

Decatur seeks ISP to run municipal wireless network