By: Susan Crawford
This is a story that defies two strongly held beliefs. The first—embraced fervently by today’s FCC—is that the private marketplace is delivering world-class internet access infrastructure at low prices to all Americans, particularly in urban areas. The second is that cities are so busy competing that they are incapable of cooperating with one another, particularly when they have little in common save proximity.
These two beliefs aren’t necessarily true. Right now, the 16 very different cities that make up the South Bay region of Southern California have gotten fed up with their internet access situation: They’re paying too much for too little. So they are working together to collectively lower the amounts they pay for city communications by at least a third. It’s the first step along a path that, ultimately, will bring far cheaper internet access services to the 1.1 million people who live in the region.
You might think this is impossible. It’s true that many city officials have argued that regional collaborations are resource-intensive and bound to fail. That’s the case in the Boston area, where a city official in Malden (7 miles from Boston City Hall) bluntly told researchers, “I couldn’t support regional government at all. Each community has its own unique set of circumstances and facts and issues.”
The South Bay partnership suggests a promising alternative: Maybe cities can cooperate and save money without compromising their local autonomy. At this same moment, though, the FCC is on a march to smother local authority by blocking states from regulating any aspect of broadband service, supporting states that have raised barriers to municipal networks, deregulating pricing for lines running between cities, and removing local control over rights-of-way that could be used to bring cheaper access into town.
Read the full article here.