In all of the hubbub around Google's Gigabit project announcement of Kansas City, Kansas, Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOm put up a fascinating post:
Chip Rosenthal headed the grass roots effort to bring Google’s gigabit fiber network to Austin, and he says the Texas capital was on the short list of cities that received a site visit and were in the final rounds. Unfortunately for Austin (and me since I’d be happy to plug into a fiber-to-the-home network) Google passed over the city and chose Kansas City, Kan. instead. Rosenthal, who is one of seven commissioners on the City of Austin’s Technology and Telecommunications Commission (a strictly advisory body), thinks it’s because Texas is one of four states that forbids municipalities from getting involved in building networks.
I frequently said that if I were at Google, I would not partner with a community in a state that has decided to limit local authority to make broadband investments. We do not know for sure what role these laws played, but it is interesting that Kansas City, Missouri, has much less freedom to build telecommunications networks than does Kansas City, Kansas.
From everything we know, this network will owned and operated by Google - which means we do not consider community broadband. Though we salute Google's approach of open access (allowing independent ISPs to use the network), the future of the network is tied to Google, not the community in which it operates. Our hope is that this network helps to prove the model of open access networks, making it more feasible for communities around the country to build their own such networks much as they build the roads on which modern communities depend.
And in the meantime, it is really, really dumb policy to take the choice of whether to build a community network out of the hands of the community.