ArlFiber was originally formed by members of Our Revolution Arlington (and other interested community members) to explore the creation of a customer- and worker-owned internet service provider cooperative that would lease redundant strands of dark fiber from the ConnectArlington network to provide low-cost, high-speed service to committed affordable housing projects and small businesses in the neighborhoods along Columbia Pike. We also lobbied members of the Arlington delegation to the VA General Assembly to put forth a bill to dismantle barriers to community broadband in Virginia and recently got the Virginia Democratic Party to adopt a resolution to the same effect.
While we still hope for a cooperative, member/worker-owned entity of some sort to play a part in bridging Arlington’s digital divide, the current crisis of internet access brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to reevaluate our goals. We believe Arlington County should form a broadband authority under the powers granted to Virginia localities by The Virginia Wireless Service Authority Act. The broadband authority could then be used to build out an open access network that provides fiber-to-the-home connections to all buildings and residences, starting with the most underserved neighborhoods (as already identified by the Department of Information Technology [pdf]). This broadband authority could either provide service itself or use software defined networks to allow private internet service providers to compete to provide low-cost, high-speed service – a model that was pioneered in Ammon, ID and has been tremendously successful.
“We need to build a digital landscape that provides world-class connection to all, is sustainable, privacy-enhancing, rights-preserving, innovative, and democratic by design. We must therefore move in the direction of treating digital connectivity as a right and organizing digital infrastructure …as a vital 21st-century public good, underpinned by democratic ownership and governance.”– Next System Project
“Without oversight or competition, we’ve allowed a handful of players to really control our internet access destiny. It’s particularly cruel right now — about 18% of African American households in America don’t have a connection at home. Many times that’s because of cost, [and] there may be that cable provider there, but they’re a local monopoly and they can charge whatever they like.”– Susan Crawford
“The Internet is one of the most powerful instruments of the 21st century for increasing transparency in the conduct of the powerful, access to information, and for facilitating active citizen participation in building democratic societies. As such, facilitating access to the Internet for all individuals, with as little restriction to online content as possible, should be a priority for all States.”– United Nations