Public Goods Post
thinking about the public economy
This month we feature a guest post from Donald Cohen of In the Public Interest,  originally published in the Huffington Post.

As you may know, last week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal net neutrality rules which ensured that the internet belonged to the public and not to internet providers. While the regulatory news is not good, there is still a way that people can take back the internet for good.
Broadband for All?
We should be loud and clear in the coming weeks: net neutrality is crucial to helping everyone get online, regardless of where they live or how much money they make.

But there’s another way we can fight for an open internet.

Recently, 19 towns across Colorado voted to allow the exploration of creating a local, public alternative to expensive private providers.

Fort Collins voters went the furthest, passing a measure to finance an assessment of starting a city-owned broadband utility, which would aim to provide faster service at a cheaper price. That means residents could have a say in whether a new public network maintains the principle of net neutrality, whatever the FCC decides in the future.

“People who don’t normally get excited or vote actually turned out this time and actually got energized,” said one resident who had campaigned for the measure.

Not everyone was excited. Industry groups spent more than $450,000 campaigning against the measure. In fact, the very reason Colorado towns had to vote “yes” before even exploring public broadband is because of an industry-backed state law requiring municipalities to jump through hoops to take control of their internet infrastructure. (The industry has successfully pushed similar legislation in over 20 states.)

Comcast and the like are quaking in their boots about a public option, and they should be. Cities like Chattanooga, Tennessee, which became the first U.S. city to offer gigabit internet speed after going public, are outperforming private providers and even forcing them to innovate to play catch up.

Why shouldn’t internet access be a public good? The web should be like the Postal Service, which, because it’s public, provides affordable mail service to everyone, rich or poor, in all areas of the country.

And why should a handful of corporate executives and investors get rich while providing expensive, slow access and unbearable customer service? Comcast’s CEO, billionaire Brian Roberts, pocketed $33 million last year alone while running America’s most hated corporation.

People need the internet for life in the 21st century, to communicate, apply for jobs, and access crucial resources. Everyone should have affordable access.


Donald Cohen

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The Public Goods Post has been created by June Sekera, 
Founder and Director of the Public Goods Institute; and Research Fellow at the 
Global Development And Environment Institute, Tufts University.

The Public Goods Post is produced by Daniel Agostino.

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