Just as bringing electric power to homes and farms was America's great infrastructure challenge in the early decades of the 20th century, building out telecommunications infrastructure is the challenge of the early 21st as FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has observed.
Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has issued a call for Americans rise to this new challenge just as they did in the 1930s with the Rural Electrification Administration and local utility cooperatives. While noting that every generation believes it bears a bigger burden than those before it, Mitchell asserts building out telecom infrastructure while difficult can be done just as it was with electric power lines.
Mitchell like author Jack Lessinger suggests this build out like electrification of nearly a century ago will help fuel an economic boom. (Building telecom infrastructure publicly and cooperatively also fits into Lessinger's emerging socioeconomic paradigm where "what's in it for me" is being supplanted by a new ethic of "what's in it for us.")
I strongly recommend reading Mitchell's latest white paper, Breaking the Broadband Monopoly. It's a comprehensive and very current treatise on and making the case for locally owned and operated telecom infrastructure. The paper is loaded with examples of community projects, examples of how legacy incumbent carriers fighting the future have attempted to stymie them, and tips and traps to avoid for community activists and local governments looking to take control of their telecommunications destiny and build their own local networks.