There were twelve people at a Broadband Bridge meeting in Mount Pleasant to discuss the importance of community-controlled infrastructure for internet access.
First we read this news piece, “More sad news on why Americans pay so much for crappy Internet and phone service.”
People gave their reactions:
- We should nationalize our telecommunications infrastructure
- Other countries have free WiFi, why not us?
- America has fallen behind over the last decade
- We need uniform access, not just “available access”
- It’s not an issue of cost – companies make record profits
Taking the notion of uniform access and nationalization, we shaped this into the idea of the internet as a commons. Points from this conversation:
- Community access: concern for security
- If I share, what if someone else uses it in a way I don’t like?
- Liability is a tool that the ISPs use to force people to buy their own connection
- Fear of liability comes from a lack of knowledge and understanding
- How is that different? People don’t know the difference
- Within the industry, the term “cloud” came from “not my problem”
- Few people know that the cloud is all made of specific and fallible hardware
- We could use the metric of “the weight of the internet” in electrons to ask, “how much does my part weigh?”
What are the problems with the internet and access in DC?
- HacDC can’t get sufficient broadband for its projects, nor can other nonprofits in the St. Stephens space – this holds back the potential of the nonprofits
- There is a chilling effect from the lack of trust of operators
- A lack of alternative options prevents meaningful participation
- With community wireless, you will likely be in contact with people who share their broadband, which provides real accountability
- ISPs spend money on lobbying, not customer or community engagement
- With the derecho – lost power, no internet even after the power came back, but community network had broadband bc the line for its gateway is buried
- People want to work from home, but whether or not they have access to the internet makes their work from home a variable quality compared to working in an office
- Are there places that have done community wireless before? (yes!)
- We heard some negatives about mesh wireless, from this article.
- Suggestion for organizing other networks: visit the ANCs
- We are lost when we don’t think big enough
- What has to occur, we have to say, we want an alternative instruction
- We assume that we will fail when we don’t take control of our problems
- Start by thinking big
- Make the government work for us
- We settle for less, then we don’t even get that
- Pepco & Verizon aren’t supposed to determine our destinies
- Classic situation: think both small and big at the same time
Then we discussed visioning: What is the best we could want for internet infrastructure and access in DC?
- We want municipal pipelines and WiFi
- Tech is isolative. People should understand the technology. The need for a large amount of education and practice means we should create learning beds, so people can increase their understanding.
- We need something tangible here. We should generate a larger and a smaller vision, like let’s have access in parks and homes.
- Every child will have access and hardware
- Cheap municipal option for access that’s great, and then community mesh networks. OCTO needs to allow the community to connect, then we can have fast local access and a sense of community.
- Reasonable municipal control of fiber in the ground, and totally free of censorship, surveillance, and self-identity is a choice.
- We have total access available, but we need to work on the government to maintain good service for all – freedom to share resources
- All communications services would be a utility, owned by the people, and government would provide physical infrastructure, system would be totally neutral – content ownership by originators, and abolish copyright & no software or business patents
- Establish right for freedom to communicate, and let people know “you own this.” people don’t yet feel ownership. Also, moving into new centers of commons: change post offices into community centers before private developers scoop them up
- DC-NET / DC-CAN is useful and shared to all, shared through community-controlled wireless mesh networks. Try to bridge a gap – have a huge mesh and good fiber. We must build mesh networks that make the idiotic dichotomy of access and the digital divide obvious.