Who’s Broadband Free Market Is It, Anyway? Local Communities, of course.

The last time a Federal agency connected with the winds of change to broadband (NTIA) had a closed door meeting with incumbents’ arm twisters, rules got “modified” that pretty much screwed communities’ by diminishing their role in the stimulus program and elevating the role of private providers. This in direct contradiction of the intent of Congressional legislation that set up the broadband stimulus program.

This week we learned the FCC is holding a close door meeting with same arm twisters (ok, maybe different faces, but cut from the same cloth). WTF happened to transparency! Luckily for communities, there’s a public Notice of Inquiry for We the People to weigh in. But the way incumbents are reacting just to having public input where everyone gets an equal hearing, you’d think we slapped their mothers and assaulted their children. So I’m having visions of deja vu all over again about this meeting.

It’s time to rally and focus those communities that realize “if broadband is to be, it is up to me.” I wrote a column that puts a very fine point on the issue of the day. If all of those folks in D.C. carrying on about free markets deciding broadband issues truly believe that line, then let’s see ’em eat their own dog food. Check out the summary below, go read the column and then pass it on. Tell incumbents we’re asserting our free market force.


The best thing government can do for broadband is give free markets a bigger role. However, despite their strong arming Congress, large telcos and ISPs are NOT the market. The markets are actually constituents and stakeholders in local communities, many of whom aren’t getting the broadband they need. This paper discusses major shifts needed nationally and locally in communities’ role in broadband discussions, policymaking, legislation and funding. Otherwise we risk delay and failure.

The full article

3 Responses

  1. Municipal networking is not the “free market.” It’s an unwanted and unnecessary intrusion by local government that’s just as bad, if not worse, than intrusions at the Federal level. Local business can and does step up to the plate to provide broadband — so long as government does not kill these efforts via unwise, financially unsound, and unsustainable anticompetitive activity.

    • Community broadband, when driven by constituents and community stakeholders is indeed the free market. They (the market) decide what they want and who they want it from. More importantly, when a community votes either directly or through approval of its elected representatives, that is democracy. And incumbents’ attempts to nullify local voters their right to determine what services they get and from who they get these services is a subversion of democracy.

  2. Yes, a market is sellers AND buyers. In telecommunications, incumbent providers and customers due to costs and business model constraints cannot get together. Market failure as you suggest requires the creation of new markets served by alternative business models. This is what has been largely absent from the current policy debate.

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