Communications technologies have continued to evolve and now increasingly provide opportunities for deploying low-cost broadband. However, conventional commercial business models for providing broadband often create bottlenecks to spreading connectivity. Over the past five years, successful community and municipal wireless networks have been overlooked and often dismissed, yet they hold tremendous promise for improving our nation’s approach to building communications infrastructure, empowering local communities and addressing the digital divide.
Addressing this topic and presenting the findings from a new policy report was a panel – consisting of Laura Forlano, Visiting Fellow at the Information Society Project, Yale Law School; Benjamin Lennett, Senior Policy Analyst, Open Technology Initiative; Gwen Shaffer, Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at University of California, Irvine; Aaron Kaplan from Funkfeuer, Austria; Stavros Papathanasiou from Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network in Athens, Greece; and Alison Powell, Media and Communications Fellow at the London School of Economics – moderated by Knight Media Policy Fellow Tom Glaisyer.
The panel discussed best practices for community and municipal wireless that spanned cases in the United States, Denmark, Spain, Greece, and other parts of Europe. The establishment of local and municipal networks in these case studies demonstrated how affordable and fast wireless can be and offered an alternative to the ways we view internet access in the United States.
With the current revolution in Egypt and the cut-off from internet access that the Egyptians face, the event helped to point out how pivotal community wireless is in sustaining community connectivity and involvement. The panelists also offered insights that touched on issues of media access and its link to democracy, the connection between wireless access and political motivation, and comparisons between community-based and subscription-based access.
This event is co-sponsored by the New America Foundation and the Yale Law School, Information Society Project.