Past Event

Let There Be Wi-Fi

Community Broadband and the Future of the Internet

12:00 AM - 11:59 PM EST

Let There Be Wi-Fi
Community Broadband and the Future of the Internet

Most people know “broadband” as an alternative to their old, slow dial-up Internet connection. But in terms of powering economies, broadband could be the 21st century equivalent of electricity. Broadband is about much more than checking your e-mail or browsing on eBay. In the near future, telephone, television, radio and the Web all will be delivered to your home via a single broadband connection. In the not-so-distant future, broadband will be an indispensable part of economic, personal, and public life. The countries that achieve universal broadband are going to hold significant advantages over those that don’t. And so far, the United States is poised to be a follower—not a leader—in the broadband economy.

Despite fierce opposition from telecom companies and their political allies, some municipalities are finding ways to provide broadband to their residents. Community Internet projects are already up and running in dozens of small towns like Scottsburg, Indiana, and are coming soon to bigger cities like Philadelphia, Portland, and Minneapolis. These cities recognize broadband as perhaps the single most important factor in transforming their local economies and the lives of average citizens. Community Internet could revolutionize and democratize communications in this country. But the major obstacle to universal, affordable broadband access for all Americans is not economic or technical. It’s political.

Please join us for a discussion on the importance of a universal, affordable broadband access for bridging the digital divide and helping to drive American economic competitiveness in the 21st century.



•  Introduction: Mark Lloyd
•  Ben Scott
•  Jim Baller
•  Mayor William H. Graham
•  Greg Richardson
•  Panel Q&A

Event Transcript (pdf)


Jim Baller, Founder, Baller Herbst Law Group
Mayor William H. Graham, Scottsburg, Indiana
Greg Richardson, Founder and Managing Partner, Civitium LLC

Moderated by:

Ben Scott, Policy Director, Free Press

Introduction by:

Mark Lloyd, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress


Friday, February 10, 2006
Program: 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Light refreshments will be provided.
Admission is free.

Center for American Progress
1333 H Street NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
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Jim Baller is the founder of the Baller Herbst Law Group, a national law firm based in Washington and Minneapolis. He is a leading expert on Community Internet, representing local governments and public power utilities in matters involving telecommunications, Internet access, and barriers to the public-sector entry into communications. His clients include the American Public Power Association (APPA), the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA), regional and state utility associations and municipal leagues, and numerous individual local governments and public power utilities in more than 35 states. Mr. Baller is a frequent speaker and author on communications matters and a graduate of Dartmouth College and Cornell Law School.

William H. Graham has been Mayor of the City of Scottsburg since 1988. When he took office, the city had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state and was on the decline. He has been instrumental in attracting new businesses and keeping old ones, in large part due to his aggressive communications planning. When the telecommunications and cable companies of the state were unwilling to offer broadband to his residents, Mayor Graham started a city broadband utility. He managed to retain the employers who threatened to leave if they were forced to stick with dial-up Internet access, and with them, increased the jobs and commerce of his city.

Greg Richardson is the Founder and Managing Partner for Civitium LLC. Civitium is the market-leading management and technology consulting firm for municipal governments and institutions that are applying wireless technology as the foundation for Digital Communities. Civitium serves as the lead advisor for many of the most high-profile Digital Community initiatives in the world, including Philadelphia, San Francisco and Houston. Prior to founding Civitium, he served as the Director of Wireless Consulting for Siemens in the United States.

Ben Scott is Policy Director of Free Press. He heads up the Washington, D.C. office, dedicated to monitoring and analyzing media policymaking to increase public awareness and participation. Before joining Free Press, he worked as a legislative fellow handling telecommunications policy for Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is also in the final stages of his doctoral degree in communications from the University of Illinois. He is the author of several scholarly articles on American journalism history and the politics of media regulation as well as co-editor of two books, Our Unfree Press (The New Press, 2004) and The Future of Media (Seven Stories, 2005).

Mark Lloyd is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress focusing on communications policy issues, including universal service, advanced telecommunications deployment, media concentration and diversity. From the fall of 2002 until the summer of 2004, Mr. Lloyd was a Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he taught communications policy and wrote and conducted research on the relationship between communications policy and strong democratic communities. He also served as the Executive Director of the Civil Rights Forum on Communications Policy, a non-profit, non-partisan project he co-founded in 1997 to bring civil rights principles and advocacy to the communications policy debate. He also has nearly 20 years of experience as a print and broadcast journalist, including work as a reporter and producer at NBC and CNN, and is the recipient of several awards including an Emmy and a Cine Golden Eagle. He has served on the boards of directors of dozens of national and local organizations, including the Independent Television Service, OMB Watch, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund. He has also served as a consultant to the Clinton White House, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Open Society Institute and the Smithsonian Institution. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and his law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center.