Sunday, July 09, 2006

Coops for the Last Mile?

Here's something to think about: Ownership of the last mile of network connectivity. In Lafayette we've already thought some about this--and decided that the alternative of an advanced, publicly-owned last mile network should be available to our citizens. We got there the old-fashioned way: via a fight with incumbent providers who refused to provide what the community wanted.

Robert X Cringely has joined a chorus of folks in the national debate in asking if its not time to consider a solution to the net neutrality problem that cuts the big guys/bad actors out of the control of the crucial last mile of the internet. Monopoly/duopoly control of the last mile is all that gives them the power to insist on organizing the net to maximize their profit.

The insurgent idea comes down to folks in the last mile forming Cooperatives (like Slemco but probably smaller), to fund the build with cheap loans from the likes of Microsoft and Google and to simply bypass the incumbents in enough places to force them to act like free enterprise entities rather than monopolies. It's a structural rather than regulatory solution.

Cringley has put up a short list of links to some of the proponents of the ideas--and once you're started you can find more discussion on the net--so if you want to spend a part of your day creatively exploring the possibilities I'd be interested to hear what you come up with. (I've got my own opinions, natch, and will try and put something up on that when I make it back to town.)

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