Let Locales Own Their Networks

Lawrence Lessig advocates municipalities owning their own networks.

I concur, and here’s why.

Network connectivity is rapidly becoming as important as electricity and phone. While there is a free-market nature in some regards to those industries, many locations still have city-owned services for power generation. Personally, I think it’s great that the city of Huntsville owns Huntsville Utilities. To quote Huntsville Utilities’s about page:

As a “Public Utility” we answer only to the people we serve. Decisions are not influenced by the effects on our stock prices, but are based on what is best for our customers. We do not pay dividends to stockholders, instead we provide lower prices to our customers. Every person associated with Huntsville Utilities is a local resident, including our Board Members. Decisions are not made by some distant corporate board but are made here with only the best interest of your local community at heart. Our employees are your neighbors, your Sunday School teachers, your little league coaches, your community supporters and civic organization’s participants. Our employees have formed a Volunteer Council to select and organize assistance to worthy causes. As a good corporate neighbor Huntsville Utilities actively participates in Gatekeepers, Project Share, Buddy Call, United Way, March of Dimes and Adopt-a-School. In 1996 Huntsville Utilities received a National Community Service Award.

Huntsville is actually the kind of city that could afford to roll something like this out. We’re geeky enough that it could work, and a city-run network would be absolutely awesome. Sure, there would certainly be some opposition to the idea, especially from free marketeers [in this city, namely Comcast, Knology, Mediacom, HiWAAY, and BellSouth] that already provide networking services to consumers and businesses in the area, but in the long run, it would be a net positive&emdash;especially for local businesses that then wanted to turn around and tap their internal networks onto the trunk.

I’d be happy to spend my tax dollars on that.