Fed up with the major telecom’s inaction and unwillingness to invest in the technologies of the future, enterprising North Carolina communities like Wilson, Salisbury, and Morganton have taken steps to control their digital destiny. Faced with this competition, the telecoms are working the state legislature, seeking to pile on as many restrictions on these public initiatives as they can. That’s what the “Level Playing Field” Act (H1252/S1004) gives us. It’s a step backwards in every sense of the word.
Wilson’s Greenlight system provides Internet, TV, and phone service at prices the telecoms wouldn’t. This successful system is the envy of geek citizens across the state, and the last lifeline available to our communities still reeling from the collapse of the state’s furniture and textile industries. By investing in their own digital roads, these cities are investing in their future.
When I was in San Francisco working on "The Day after Tomorrow", I saw a project working to build community access WiFi. It was a grass roots project that involved neighborhood repeaters built inside PVC pipes for protection. Some were directly wired into the net, others simply did packet forwarding, but for poorer neighborhoods where school kids did not have broadband internet in their homes (or any internet at all), it have them free access to the online world.
The whole point of the original internet was de-centralization, making the net unstoppable and uncensored. We do need to return to those days, and soon, because the internet as we know it today is being turned into just another commercial TV network, albeit with a few more buttons.