Since the beginning of time, man has lived and worked in community - whether a village of a few humble dwellings, a town or a major international city. The United Nations estimated that by the end of 2008, half the world's population was living in urban areas and that by 2050, about 70 per cent will be city dwellers.
All of these communities or cities, whatever their size and sophistication, support a complex web of human relationships covering every aspect of life. We live, labour, learn and leisure in and through these relationships - which form the warp and weft of a civil society. Some are explicit and institutional in nature; many more are informal and intimate. But they are all characterized by being dynamic, and held together through conversation or communication.
To date, these local communities, and the individuals and institutions that comprise them, have not enjoyed the freedom to deploy locally the new digital technologies of abundance - silicon chips linked by optical fiber and cognitive radio. These technologies underpin the information age. Local communities must be free to use them in a manner that they themselves determine is best suited to supporting and enhancing the life of their community.
As a result of two decades or more of almost universally mis-aligned public policy, the deployment in our communities of these technologies has remained largely under the control of third-party ‘service providers’ (telecoms and cable-TV operators). These have had their own agendas and interests which they serve via business models derived from a rapidly receding analogue era.
But this is changing. There is now an awakening among a new generation of digitally-inspired local political leaders. They are realizing that the communities and cities they seek to serve need a 4th Utilty© for the information age that ensures the institutions and citizens of their communities are better connected, one with another, than other cities with which they must compete in a global economy. They know too, that their communities need the freedom to access (and originate) any service and content from anyone, anywhere on the globe … or simply put, they need the freedom and power to control their own local digital connectivity.