“The global spread of COVID-19 has shone a bright spotlight on both the vital need for reliable high-speed internet and the inadequacies of the for-profit, corporate model in delivering it,” begins a new joint report by The Democracy Collaborative and the British think tank Common Wealth. The report details a set of policies that can be enacted in both the United States and the United Kingdom based on “new approaches to ownership and control” of the digital infrastructure that underpins the 21st-century economy. These include treating the wireless spectrum, cloud infrastructure, and the rollout and maintenance of fiber optic connections and 5G wireless as vital 21st-century public goods, underpinned by democratic ownership and governance.
“We Should Own the Internet”:
In In These Times, research director Thomas M. Hanna and Isaiah J. Poole write that it is time to stop treating high-speed internet as a privately sold luxury commodity and instead consider it public infrastructure—and that means taking it out of the hands of corporations and putting it under democratic and public control.
Instead of relying on the widely criticized and problematic “paycheck protection program” designed to prop up small businesses and their workers, The Democracy Collaborative’s vice president Marjorie Kelly and research director Thomas M. Hanna call in Next City for the creation of “local economy preservation funds.” These holding companies would acquire an ownership interest in distressed businesses and hold it until the business can be returned to health under some form of local, worker or community ownership. This would be a way to save local businesses at scale, while also creating a more equitable and democratic economy out of the ashes of the old.
Democracy Collaborative President Ted Howard and Centre for Local Economic Strategies CEO Neil McInroy explain in a one-hour discussion with Bloomberg’s Stephanie Flanders how in both the United States and the United Kingdom community wealth building strategies are offering a better way forward to a post-COVID-19 economic revival. “This is a time when community wealth building is more relevant than ever,” Howard says, as we think about building more localized and decentralized supply chains that can also be made more democratically owned. Says McInroy: “Community wealth building is here, it’s on hand, it’s ready and willing to step up to the plate and help with this new economy we’ve got to build and get us through this crisis.”