Commentary

The Non-Profit Alternative to Muni Networks

IBM and Cisco, with the participation of SeaKay, a non-profit organization, plan to provide free wireless broadband access to 1,500 square miles in Silicon Valley, which would make it the largest community broadband initiative thus far: 42 cities, 2.4 million residences, $270 million. This comes as San Francisco, the city just to the north, continues to dither about whether government should fund broadband networks. There, municipal advocates argue that the private sector is incapable of getting broadband to those who need it. The Silicon Valley project, and others like it, belie this. They show how much of an interest the private sector has in promoting broadband use. It also shows that government participation is not required in order to close the “digital divide.” Given the number of municipal failures, compared to commercial and non-profit successes in broadband, government only tends to make digital divide problems worse. They siphon off investment from the private sector, while falling short of their own goals. Moreover, when non-profits like SeaKay participate, there is less of a chance that community broadband projects will fall prey to political interia or apathyââ?¬â??a concern voiced by Boston authorities who chose the non-profit approach specifically to ensure continuity of the project beyond the current administration. Projects such as these also counter another familiar municipal platitude, that the industry is intent on holding back development. IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, not to mention the phone and cable companies all benefit when more people use broadband. It is not surprising to see the industry lining up behind non-profit, non-government initiatives.

Steven Titch served as a policy analyst at Reason Foundation from 2004 to 2013.

Titch's work primarily focused on telecommunications, the Internet and new media. He is a former managing editor of InfoTech & Telecom News (IT&T News) published by the Heartland Institute. His columns have appeared in Investor's Business Daily, Total Telecom, and America's Network, among others.

Prior to joining Reason in 2004, Titch covered the telecommunications industry as a journalist for more than two decades. Titch was director of editorial projects for Data Communications magazine where he directed content development for supplemental publications and special projects. He has also held the positions of editorial director of Telephony, editor of Global Telephony magazine, Midwest bureau chief of CommunicationsWeek, and associate editor-communications at Electronic News.

Outside of the telecom industry, Titch conducted rich media and content development for publishers and corporate marketing groups. He has also developed and launched his own web-based media, including SecuritySquared.com, an on-line resource for the security industry.

Titch graduated cum laude from Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism and English.