Thanks to Jeff Hoel for providing the transcript for episode 103 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast on the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC). Listen to this episode here.
Chris Mitchell: The decision should be made locally. And if people -- if local governments -- want to choose not to get involved, or if they want to choose their own way of working with the incumbent providers, then that's terrific. And we support them to make that choice.
Lisa Gonzalez: Hi there. You're listening again to the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, brought to you by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. And I'm Lisa Gonzalez.
Earlier this month, we wrote about a new organization, the Coalition for Local Internet Choice, also known as CLIC. The organization advances the philosophy that Internet is an essential 21st century infrastructure, local communities are the lifeblood of America, and that local communities must be able to make their own choices. In this edition of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, Chris, who is a Senior Advisor with CLIC, provided some back story on the creation of the coalition. He also shared some tips on what you can do to advocate for local choice in your community. If you feel that your community is best suited to decide its own Internet destiny, you need to join the coalition, and make your voice heard. We encourage you to check out the CLIC website at localnetchoice.org and follow the organization on Twitter. The handle is @localnetchoice.
Chris Mitchell: Hey, Lisa, can you come over here?
Lisa: Hey, Chris. So what's going on?
Chris: Hey, I just wanted to tell you about this great new organization: the Coalition for Local Internet Choice, or CLIC.
Lisa: I think I've heard a little bit about that. Why don't you describe it a little bit better?
Chris: I think you might have written a little bit about it already. Yes. But I'll tell you about it. It's the Coalition for Local Internet Choice -- the idea being that every community should be able to decide locally, for itself, if it's smart to make its own investments in Internet access, or if they should partner, or that sort of thing. And the idea is generally that states and the federal government should stay out of the way.
Lisa: Federal government. I seem to recall seeing something about a letter from some DC senators about this. Tell me about that.
Chris: Well, that's actually one of the reasons that this is so important -- to form together. Because, you know, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Wheeler has made it pretty clear that he's not happy that some 19 or 20 states have limits on how local governments can decide for themselves if a network is a smart choice. You know, I mean, if a city in, let's say, Texas or Nebraska wants to try to do what Chattanooga's done, in terms of building the best Internet network in the country, they're really not allowed to do it. Or they certainly couldn't do it in the same way. And Chairman Wheeler has said, look, we need to make sure that this is an option for communities. Not that communities should do it, but that they should decide for themselves. And in response, the cable industry got really busy in Washington, DC. And very quickly, we saw eleven Republican senators -- which, I think, represent a real fringe wing of the Republicans, frankly, for the most part -- at least nine out of eleven of them do.
Lisa: Oh, really?
Chris: They signed a letter saying -- the letter, really, was kind of absurd. It suggested that somehow the Chairman is trying to force states to force local governments to put taxpayer dollars into building failure networks. Which is ludicrous. The real issue is whether or not the local governments can choose. So, we see this issue is already being twisted, and that's why a group like the Coalition for Local Internet Choice has to represent the interests of Main Street, to say, you know, this is a bipartisan issue. This is an issue that we care about, whether we're in the public sector or the private sector or whatever we're doing -- residents and businesses -- we want to be the ones to make this choice. We don't want the choice to be taken away from us by the state.
And so, it's not just those senators. There's also 60 representatives -- I think almost entirely Republicans -- who have also signed a letter now that just came out.
Lisa: I didn't hear about the representatives' letter. That just came out too?
Chris: Yes. The crazy thing about both of those letters is that it's framed as: the elected representatives that are closer to the people should be making the decision. And so they take that logic and say: the FCC shouldn't be telling states what to do. And to that, we say -- I mean, you and I, here, are working, actually, at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance are very clear. We think these decisions should be made locally. And so it's really kind of crazy for these senators and representatives to be saying decisions should be made closer to the people -- but not too close.
Lisa: That's right. Yes. Well, and, you know, communities that we've studied, and that we've been in contact with -- places that have done the -- obviously, the ones who signed the letter have not been in touch with those people. Because if they had been, then they'd see how it is a local choice. And how they should be able to make that choice. And how it's been so successful in so many different places.
Chris: Right. When you're really in touch with the grass roots, you get a sense that this decision should be made locally. And I agree with you that most of these networks have been overwhelmingly successful. But I think it's important to recognize that CLIC is not a pro-municipal-broadband organization, right? The point of CLIC is not to say municipal broadband is a tremendous benefit to the country. It's to say that the decision should be made locally. And if people -- if local governments -- want to choose not to get involved, or if they want to choose their own way of working with the incumbent providers, then that's terrific. And we support them to make that choice.
And so it's really important that even though this is a group that was formed by Joanne Hovis, Jim Baller, myself, Catharine Rice -- you know, we've all been active in this space and people know what we think -- but we formed this group out of respect for local democracy, not because we're trying to push any specific kind of agenda.
And, as well, I think if you look at our advisory board, as well, it's a terrific advisory board that represents a lot of different stakeholders. And, again, what we're trying to is make sure that the interest of the grass roots are represented not just in Washington, DC, but also across the country.
Lisa: If people want to find out more about CLIC, what should they do? Where should they find out more information?
Chris: Well, a good place to start is the website we've created, locslnetchoice.org, where people can go and get a sense of our statement of principles. We tried to keep it pretty short, at three paragraphs. Basically along the lines of what we've already talked about. The idea that communities are where this decision should be made. And there's a lot of information there, as well as our list of board of advisors, and that sort of thing. There's a connections blog. So there will be updates on that site as well. And Joanne Hovis has already done a few posts for it.
Lisa: Well, if people want to join, what do they do?
Chris. The first thing is, people SHOULD join. They should join -- they can join as individuals. They can join as a business, if they're running a business, or if they know of other businesses that would like to join. They can join as an institution -- you know, as a public entity. They can encourage their local government to pass resolutions, or to have their mayor sign ** statements, and join, and that sort of thing. These things are all helpful. This is a coalition of many interests across the board where we want to get as many different kinds of companies and local entities to join as possible, to show the broad range of support.
But there is a place on the website to sign up. And that basically says that you support our statement of principles. At this point, there's nothing else that we're asking of you, except for to sign on to our statement of principles, and to say that this is a decision that should be made locally.
Lisa: As Chris mentioned in the interview, CLIC will provide regular updates, so visit the site often.
Send us your ideas for the show. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter. Our handle is @communitynets. We released this show on June 17th, 2014. We want to thank Waylon Thornton for the song, "Bronco Romp," licensed using Creative Commons.