Monday, April 23, 2018

Federal net neutrality rules die today, but Americans can preserve it on the local level, internet engineer writes

The rollback of federal net neutrality rules takes effect today, leaving Americans with little protection from powerful telecommunications companies. But Americans can regain some control by insisting on internet service provided by local governments, which are more accountable to residents, writes one internet engineer. "As the chief information officer for Concord, Mass., I’ve overseen the creation of a successful municipal broadband system by treating Internet service like what it really is — a public utility, like water and electricity. We’re providing residents with broadband Internet service that is inexpensive and reliable and respects net neutrality and privacy principles," Mark Howell writes for The Washington Post. Concord is a town of about 18,000 near Boston.

Concord leaders established the service in 2013 after realizing that big telecom companies didn't find it profitable to serve their town. The town issued bonds to raise the initial money to build the fiber network, but customer revenue will eventually repay the bonds, and is covering current operating costs. Meanwhile, the service is saving the town tens of thousands of dollars each year and, hopefully, attracting residents who want small-town life with fast internet service, Howell writes.

A local nonprofit company set rules for the phone and internet service, and locally elected leaders and residents volunteer to serve on the governing board. The service is so well-liked that they don't need to advertise, and they stick to a simple flat-rate price structure to keep costs low. In the past four years, they've never raised the price and have raised internet speeds twice. The local approach seems popular with locals: ISPs are frequently on lists of the most-hated companies in the U.S., but 90 percent of Concord's internet service customers say they'd recommend it to a friend, Howell writes.

Hundreds of other cities, towns and counties are providing similar services, which Howell writes is proof that "Washington and the big telecoms are letting us down, but local leaders can protect people’s rights and expand access to quality Internet with municipal broadband."

No comments: