I've been thinking about an alternative structure that might allow a viable alternative to the hegemonic networks we have today. Every time I try to write this out I struggle to explain it, and never submit. I'm going to do my best to write this and hope that some of the folks on slashdot could help flesh this out. I'm trying to do something along the lines of writing a GPL license. Using a contract to turn the business of networking upside down, making people owners of the network they use.
As I see it, the major obstacle to competition in this market is the massive red tape involved in connecting a network to the internet. Pretty much anyone could wire up their neighborhood with ethernet, but they can't cross the public right-of-way without paying the troll under the bridge. Local governments have tried to build publicly owned networks only to have their growth blocked by state legislation. The organization I'm thinking about attempts to bypass these obstructions.
I'm thinking of a non-profit cooperative whose members agree to a contract that requires them to cooperate. For instance, the contract would require members to allow other members to connect to their network. Members would also be required to support some level of throughput. The organization would have an elected board and elected officers, The contract would be updated by vote of the members.
This way, I could wire up my neighborhood with ethernet. If the next neighborhood over does the same we could connect to each other. We can share the cost of connecting to the larger internet, and leverage our network to get reasonable terms. If businesses in the downtown want to build a Wifi network they can cooperate to do so. The city can help organize the effort but wouldn't own the network.