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With Net Neutrality On The Chopping Block, Communities Are Taking Matters Into their Own Hands—And Scaring The Hell Out Of Comcast

11/17/2017 15:31 EST | Updated 11/22/2017 17:31 EST

Here we go again.

Word is Trump’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman, Republican Ajit Pai, will hold a vote next month on reversing the landmark 2015 net neutrality order that bars corporations like Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable from blocking or slowing internet content.

We should be loud and clear in the coming weeks like we've been before: net neutrality is crucial to helping everyone, regardless of where they live or how much money they make, get online.

But there’s another way we can fight for an open internet.

Last week, 19 towns across Colorado voted to allow the exploration of creating a local, public alternative to expensive private providers.

Fort Collins voters went the furthest, passing a measure to finance an assessment of starting a city-owned broadband utility, which would aim to provide faster service at a cheaper price. That means residents could have a say in whether a new public network maintains the principle of net neutrality, whatever the FCC decides in the future.

“People who don’t normally get excited or vote actually turned out this time and actually got energized,” said one resident who had campaigned for the measure.

Not everyone was excited. Industry groups spent more than $450,000 campaigning against the measure. In fact, the very reason Colorado towns had to vote “yes” before even exploring public broadband is because of an industry-backed state law requiring municipalities to jump through hoops to take control of their internet infrastructure. (The industry has successfully pushed similar legislation in over 20 states.)

Comcast and the like are quaking in their boots about a public option, and they should be. Cities like Chattanooga, Tennessee, which became the first U.S. city to offer gigabit internet speed after going public, are outperforming private providers and even forcing them to innovate to play catch up.

Why shouldn’t internet access be a public good? The web should be like the Postal Service, which, because it’s public, provides affordable mail service to everyone, rich or poor, in all areas of the country.

And why should a handful of corporate executives and investors get rich while providing expensive, slow access and unbearable customer service? Comcast’s CEO, billionaire Brian Roberts, pocketed $33 million last year alone while running America’s most hated corporation.

People need the internet for life in the 21st century, to communicate, apply for jobs, and access crucial resources. Everyone should have affordable access.