Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
ACLU Report: Publicly Owned Networks Offer Better Connectivity And So Much More
A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ALU) examines municipal networks as a way to protect network neutrality and privacy, and to improve local access to broadband. The report, titled The Public Internet Option, offers information on publicly owned networks and some of the most common models. The authors also address how community networks are better positioned to preserve privacy, bring equitable Internet access across the community, and honor free speech. There are also suggestions on ways to begin a local community network initiative.
Preserving Online Expectations
The ACLU report dives into the changes the current FCC have made that have created an online environment hostile toward preserving privacy and innovation. When FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the Republican Commissioners chose to repeal federal network neutrality protections, they handed a obscene amount of power to already overly-powerful corporate ISPs. Ever since that decision, local communities have been looking for alternatives.
Authors of the report describe the ways local communities are using their existing assets and investing in more infrastructure in order to either offer connectivity themselves or work with private sector partners. In addition to having the ability to require network neutrality from partners, communities with their own infrastructure are able to take measures to protect subscribers’ data and implement other privacy protections. The current administration removed privacy protections for subscribers in 2017.
The ACLU offers best practices that rely on three main principles:
1. High-speed broadband must be accessible and affordable for all.
2. Community broadband services must protect free speech.
3. Community broadband services must protect privacy.
Within each principle, the report offers specific information and considerations. As we would expect from the ACLU, they cover the principles as they intercept between individual freedoms, human rights, and the practicalities of municipal networks. We were happy to help out with information from our map and articles, and we're pleased the authors suggest MuniNetworks.org as a clearinghouse of information to get people started on educating themselves.
From the conclusion:
There are many reasons for Americans to want their municipalities to offer broadband directly or indirectly to their residents. With internet service becoming ever more central to modern social, political, economic, and political life, access to functional and affordable broadband, like access to running water and electricity, must be available to all. Given the poor choices offered to so many Americans by corporate broadband carriers, many cities are finding they need to take matters into their own hands. And as the Trump-era FCC works to terminate important protections for the integrity and privacy of communications, many Americans are also deciding they want a broadband provider that they can trust and that is locally accountable and responsive.
As cities respond to these needs by providing internet access, they must take care to respect constitutional values of free speech and privacy and to ensure that access is provided equally to all. And communities that don’t offer Internet services should consider doing so as a way to advance and protect those values.
More than Just a Coupon: The ACP Could Promote Infrastructure Investment in Low-Income and Rural Communities
New Report: Universal Broadband Infrastructure Would Return $43 million Annually to Counties Across Rural Black Belt
Study: Low Income LA County Neighborhoods Pay More for Internet Service Than Wealthier Neighborhoods
A new study from the Digital Equity LA initiative lays bare how low-income communities of color are impacted by the quiet business decisions of the county’s monopoly Internet service provider. Slower and More Expensive/Sounding the Alarm: Disparities in Advertised Pricing for Fast, Reliable Broadband details how Charter Spectrum “shows a clear and consistent pattern of the provider reserving its best offers - high speed at low cost - for the wealthiest neighborhoods in LA County.” Not only does it highlight how economically vulnerable households in LA County pay more for slower service than those in wealthy neighborhoods, it also provides evidence for how financially-strapped households are also saddled with onerous contracts and are rarely targeted by advertisements for Charter Spectrum’s low cost plans.
On January 1st, 2022, the Federal Communications Commission launched the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) with $14.2 billion in funding designed to help American households pay for the monthly cost of their Internet subscription.