Community-Oriented Internet Service Providers
Herein I sketch a model for a Community-oriented Internet Service
Provider (CISP). I define a CISP as any ISP who works with local
institutions to provide services of local or special interest. Some
providers such as LibertyNet
focus on a local region exclusively. I think that the press's focus on
business and commerce on the Net has distracted many ISPs from
recognizing the importance of supporting their local communities. I
hope my comments help ISPs and ISP customers to build local and special
interest communities on the Net! I think Hillary Rodham Clinton is
correct, "It takes a Village"!
Advantages of CISPs for Internet users
I think the community-oriented ISP could become one of the
centerpoints of local affairs. They could become the town hall
for your region. The place where issues are discussed and actions
begin. CISPs may become the embodiment of the motto "Think globally,
If you would like to find a CISP near you check
out The List of Internet Service
Providers and ask each ISP who supports local dial-up access to you
what community services they provide.
Here's my current list of reasons to join a CISP:
- Meet the people in your area and "follow" their work.
- Network with interesting people in your community.
- Form projects and work with other interested citizens in the region.
- Represent your community in regional, national and global forums.
- Support your local small business community.
- Price: CISPs are often cheaper. They are a local phone call away for
voice and modem. And most of them offer unlimited interactive use
pricing that is lower than a monthly cable bill!
- Since CISPs are smaller and tend to have fewer users, you are much
more likely to get the username (E-Mail address) you want.
- The larger a network becomes the more complex the engineering.
Some of the largest ISPs are experiencing nearly unsurmountable
technical challenges. Some may even lose your E-Mail. Internet
technology was developed on networks supporting user-bases of maybe
10,000 or so users. ISPs with more users than that begin to
experience difficulties of scale. Maybe in 5 years they will have some
of the glitches worked out, but solutions to these problems are not
simple and will take time and money to develop and debug. Your local
ISP is generally using technology that has been proven reliable on
thousands of sites around the Net.
- Many small CISPs offer faster service to most sites than big guys
like AOL (they have less network for their users to traverse).
- The Internet is like a telephone and a library. One function a
library can serve is to be a place to find out what is going on in
the local community. CISPs could support these types of services.
- Some CISPs can offer extensive technical support. Perhaps by
offering to have a high school student or staff member go to your home
to configure the service and explain how to get started on the
Internet, etc. This level of support is generally not available from
- Large telecom companies run huge inefficient bureaucracies. They
are good at raking in bucs. But the small ISP generally runs
more efficiently. And you can often find someone who will
actually fix the problem for you!
Notes for CISPs
Small businesses are not easy to run. And running an ISP is so
extraordinarily complicated that not anyone can do it (there is no such
thing as an ISP in a box!). However, with the right marketing plan, a
strong base in your community, and an Internet guru, you
may be able to build a successful Internet business.
If you are just starting to think about becoming an ISP, read the
Resources web page. If you need consulting advice, I'm available. And subscribe to the
inet-access mailing list (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Many CISPs have adopted the home/office model and save tremendously
on the overhead of office space. Since becoming an ISP (with a
home/office arrangement) can be accomplished for something like
$50,000 in the greater Philadelphia area, it is possible for smaller
entrepreneurs to "play." These factors mean that enterprising "Mom &
Pop" ISPs appear to be a viable business operation.
I have been working with several small ISPs to develop
marketing ideas for CISPs. Here's a list of some of my thinking about
how to support your community and run a successful "Mom & Pop" ISP
business. Depending on your values, some of these would be done as a
pro bono community service, others might be offered as an introductory
promotion and others would only be offered "at the going rate". Such
decisions I'll leave to each businessperson's individual choice.
- Provide a community bulletin board with announcements of upcoming
- Work with your neighborhood association to publish their
activities and contact information.
- Work with the Chamber of Commerce to publicize their activities and
support other neighborhood businesses.
- Work with your library to provide Internet access stations, run
demos and/or classes.
- Offer classes to improve your customers' (and others') Internet skills.
- Work with local health care providers and officials to educate
people about protecting their health.
- Work with local government agencies (e.g., the Fire and
Police departments) to publish public service announcements (such as fire
and crime prevention documents and other safety related materials).
- Work with local politicians to inform the region of pending
measures in local government.
- Work with schools to build their Internet presence.
- Help make the world a better and more informed place!
Contact the author at
View the author's home page at
http://www.CJFearnley.com/ and blog