The Case for Publicly Owned Internet Service: Susan P. Crawford – Bloomberg

In cities and towns across the U.S., a familiar story is replaying itself: Powerful companies are preventing local governments from providing an essential service to their citizens. More than 100 years ago, it was electricity. Today, it is the public provision of communications services.

The Georgia legislature is currently considering a bill that would effectively make it impossible for any city in the state to provide for high-speed Internet access networks — even in areas in which the private sector cannot or will not. Nebraska, North Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee already have similar laws in place. South Carolina is considering one, as is Florida.

Mayors across the U.S. are desperate to attract good jobs and provide residents with educational opportunities, access to affordable health care, and other benefits that depend on affordable, fast connectivity — something that people in other industrialized countries take for granted. But powerful incumbent providers such as AT&T Inc. and Time Warner Cable Inc. are hamstringing municipalities.

At the beginning of the 20th century, private power companies electrified only the most lucrative population centers and ignored most of America, particularly rural America. By the mid-1920s, 15 holding companies controlled 85 percent of the nation’s electricity distribution, and the Federal Trade Commission found that the power trusts routinely gouged consumers.

Costly and Dangerous

In response, and recognizing that cheap, plentiful electricity was essential to economic development and quality of life, thousands of communities formed electric utilities of their own. Predictably, the private utilities claimed that public ownership of electrical utilities was “costly and dangerous” and “always a failure,” according to the November 1906 issue of Moody’s Magazine. Now more than 2,000 communities in the U.S., including Seattle, San Antonio and Los Angeles, provide their own electricity.

via The Case for Publicly Owned Internet Service: Susan P. Crawford – Bloomberg.

Strange Random Internet Quote:

“The Internet is full. Go away.” – Networld/Interop ’95 t-shirt.


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Posted on February 15, 2012, in Article and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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