Steve Walker

Some less or more well-organised thoughts

Broadband and community development

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A link to this article on rural broadband in the US was circulated on the ciresearchers mailing list earlier today. It reminded me of a community broadband workshop I went to a couple of years ago. What struck me about that event was that, while the topic was ostensibly community broadband, what evidently ignited the passions of most of the participants was broadband technology. There was little explicit discussion of (or, when the subject was raised, apparent interest in) the technology’s relation to ‘community’. At the time this struck me as odd because as commercial providers were rolling out what I suppose we should now call ‘last generation’ broadband to places which had hitherto not had any broadband access, the case for devoting resources to an alternative infrastructure seemed substantially weakened. Unless, that is, it could be shown that a community approach has a different, beneficial, relationship to ‘community’ (however we define it) and community development. As Odassz’s article argues, it’s not that there aren’t examples of how these links can be made. In the UK, the Alston Moor community broadband network has for a long time demonstrated how a community broadband infrastructure can be embedded in local economic and community development.

This is significant, because the subject of broadband has a new currency, with Lord Carter’s ‘Digital Britain’ interim report in the UK (see writetoreply.org, as mentioned in an earlier post) and the roll out of rural broadband is part of Obama’s economic stimulus package in the USA. Certainly in Carter’s report, the contrast between the focus on infrastructure provision (and protecting primarily corporate intellectual property) and the rather general claims about wider social and economic consequences seems to leave the door wide open to critique from a community broadband perspective, if anyone’s in a position to make it.

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Written by Steve

February 20, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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