The Commons

Elinor Ostrom's Nobel Prize Award was a significant victory for those of us who have recognized not only a difference between the public good and private good, but really for those of us who have recognized the great variety of approaches on how to promote the public good. First, the background - Elinor Ostrom has won a Nobel Prize in economics for her work demonstrating ways that public commons may be successfully managed to the benefit of all. "The Commons" is a term for a resource that is collectively owned by everyone. Some had argued that the only way to prevent a few from despoiling the commons was by enforcing private property rights - but Ostrom's work demonstrated that different communities around the world have successfully maintained the commons without resorting to auctioning it off. Perhaps most importantly from our perspective, she clarified in an NPR podcast that there is no single solution to managing the commons. In many cases, a government should avoid preemption when local people are able to work out the management on their own. In other areas, government may have a stronger role to play. This is the same philosophy that we have embraced on the issue of broadband - we are not advocates solely for municipal ownership. We advocate accountability - the network must put community first and be responsive to those changing needs.