Public broadband in Rhode Island is possible and can help ensure net neutrality. Hundreds of communities throughout the United States have already developed programs that provide municipal internet access at faster speeds than is presently available on the open market. While the principles of net neutrality are great, they do not do enough to ensure that all Americans are provided with access to information. Communities can design programs so that the principles of net neutrality are ensured.
To use healthcare as a metaphor, net neutrality is akin to the ACA while public broadband is more like universal healthcare. The ACLU has recently launched “The Public Internet Option”, a national effort to educate people about public broadband. A wealth of resources are available online and there are a growing number of communities with initiatives presently underway, notably Cambridge, MA and the state of Kentucky. There are several successful programs, especially in Chatanooga, TN. The digital economy in areas that adopt public broadband experiences tremendous growth due to the faster speeds and better connectivity that public broadband provides. More information and a robust community can be found at muninetworks.org. The Post Road Foundation, a new nonprofit devoted to providing resources to support public connectivity, has recently received substantial funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. Public broadband systems can be devised in numerous ways. Chatanooga has developed a system that operates public broadband in much the same way that municipal water departments operate. Other communities develop systems that rely on public-private partnerships.
In Rhode Island, we have a unique and exciting opportunity because as a small state we can hopefully institute a statewide program. Any public broadband option would gain popularity among the general public as a potential cost savings. Additionally, speaking as a librarian who navigates the byzantine E-Rate system, a public system would greatly reduce the stress level of librarians and teachers who are subjected to that system on a nearly continuous basis.
Technical Services Librarian,