The power of PI: the rise of community owned Public Internets

Summary:From my news story: "San Francisco activist groups rally against Google/Earthlink "monopoly" deal for free WiFi " Several San Francisco activist groups and non-profit internet companies have joined together to protest a proposed deal between the city and a Google/Earthlink partnership to provide free WiFi. Called the Public Net San Francisco coalition, the group issued a statement Friday insisting that the city government kill a multi-million dollar pending deal with Google and Earthlink.

From my news story: "San Francisco activist groups rally against Google/Earthlink "monopoly" deal for free WiFi "

Several San Francisco activist groups and non-profit internet companies have joined together to protest a proposed deal between the city and a Google/Earthlink partnership to provide free WiFi.

Called the Public Net San Francisco coalition, the group issued a statement Friday insisting that the city government kill a multi-million dollar pending deal with Google and Earthlink. Instead, the coalition says the city's existing high speed fiber optic network has plenty of spare capacity to support a high-speed Internet network open to every resident regardless of income.

 

The Google/Earthlink deal with San Francisco could potentially establish a model for municipalities across the US and in other countries. It would be the start of a massive new market for giant Internet companies such as Google and Earthlink.

The San Francisco deal could put them in the forefront of a race with competitors to dominate the next big business opportunity: the gold rush to monetise local markets. 

It has long been my opinion that communities will increasingly seek to own their "Internet airspace." Why should the local hardware store pay Google or Yahoo to reach its customers just a mile or two away? Why let Internet giants thousands of miles away become the gatekeepers for local commercial transactions? It sucks money out of a community.

But there is no need for a middleman, there is no need for a GOOG or YHOO tax on people engaged in their daily interactions with their neighbors. As offline and online world's become better integrated through a plethora of Web 2.0 social network applications, it will enable a Public Internet (PI).

This is why communities will succeed in owning their regional Internets:

  •  Because they will have the means--the technologies are inexpensive. Commercial companies will still have a place within a Public Internet, providing services such as managing infrastructure operations. But it is the ownership and governance of a PI that is important, it determines who gets what slice, and it makes sure that there is fair use of a communal resource.
  • There is value in a community. Google did not buy YouTube for $1.67bn for its technology, it bought the community. What's the value of a community such as San Francisco? Huge, bigger than YouTube.
  • The ownership of an online commons by communities will be seen as essential in guaranteeing free speech, the freedom to associate, and to have unrestricted and uncensored use of the Internet.
  • Governments around the world are increasingly spying on Internet users, restricting and censoring content, and mining Internet data to arrest dissidents.
  • Community owned Internets could potentially stymie such activities, especially if their charter were to protect their users from any type of monitoring--commercial or government spyware.

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Please also see:

 

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Posted by Tom Foremski on April 18, 2006 4:00 AM

Topics: Google

About

In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to make a living as a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley.Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leadi... Full Bio

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