The recently reintroduced Affordable, Accessible Internet for All (AAIA) Act would be a game changer. The bill includes funding and dedicated support to address barriers that prevent millions of Americans from having access to affordable, high-speed Internet connectivity. It backs measures that would encourage pricing transparency, promote Internet adoption and digital literacy initiatives, guarantee affordability, and protect the rights of workers who would build the networks. It also makes input from local, state and Tribal governments a central component of future infrastructure and overturn state preemption laws which prevent communities from building publicly owned networks.
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is a national nonprofit working to empower communities by striking at the roots of monopoly power and striving toward a vision of thriving, diverse, equitable communities. We use in-depth research, reporting, and data analysis to produce influential reports and articles. Our analyses are frequently featured in national news media and sought out by policymakers. We work closely with a broad range of local community leaders, elected officials, and a diverse coalition of allies to advance these ideas and policies.
Community Broadband Organizer
East of Birmingham, Coosa Valley Electric Cooperative is in the initial stages of building a Fiber-to-the-Home network to bring gigabit service to more than 17,000 member-owners in what will be a four-year build. The effort is driven by overwhelming member support and a renewed commitment to bringing essential services to communities otherwise left behind.
This week’s community broadband state legislative roundup revisits and provides updates on important bills moving through the state legislatures in Washington, Oklahoma, and California.
The State Scene
We’ve been closely covering S.B. 5383 and H.B. 1336, two bills in Washington state that would give Public Utilities Districts (PUDs) and port districts the authority to offer retail telecommunications services.
One component of the recently passed Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 was the Emergency Broadband Benefit, a $3.2 billion program designed to get families connected to available service that they otherwise might not be able to afford. The program provides a subsidy of up to $50/month (or $75 on tribal lands) for broadband service as well as up to $100 for a device (with a household contribution) for as long as the money lasts.
On Episode 9 of Connect This!, hosts Christopher Mitchell and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Kim McKinley (Chief Marketing Officer, UTOPIA Fiber) and Doug Dawson (President, CCG Consulting) to talk about the recently signed American Rescue Plan Act, which has the potential to funnel an unprecedented level of funding to communities which can be used for Internet infrastructure.
The group talks about the different buckets of money that will become available and how cities, counties, and states might use them. They discuss the ways that communities can use the federal funds to reduce risk for local projects and push them forward, create partnerships with public organizations and private firms, and what local officials need to do to ensure that they are ready when the money starts flowing to effect long-term positive change.
A pair of bills making the rounds through Florida’s state legislature are an attack on the state’s urban municipal electric utility ratepayers to the financial benefit of big cable monopolies, under the guise of expanding rural broadband.
H.B. 1239 and S.B. 1592 read like regulatory wishlists for Florida’s big Internet service providers. Word around the capitol is that the bills are heavily influenced by Charter Spectrum, the major incumbent cable Internet provider in the region (insiders also noted in an interview that it was sponsored by the Florida Internet and Television Association, of which Charter and Comcast are members).
A bill dedicating $150 million of anticipated federal funding to create a new state broadband office to coordinate and accelerate the expansion of high-speed Internet access throughout Vermont passed the State House of Representatives last week with overwhelming bipartisan support. The move could clear a path for the state's Communications Union Districts to make unprecedented progress on building high-quality telecommunications infrastructure.
Hop in a time machine and go back to 2008. It was a banner year for NASA as the space agency celebrated its 50th birthday. Phoenix touched down on Mars, far-off planets were photographed, four space shuttles flew to the International Space Station, and the agency helped send scientific instruments to the moon aboard India’s first lunar explorer.
Join us for Episode 9 of Connect This!, where hosts Christopher Mitchell and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by Joanne Hovis (President, CTC Energy and Technology) and Doug Dawson (President, CCG Consulting) to talk about the recently signed American Rescue Plan Act, which has the potential to funnel an unprecedented level of funding to communities which can be used for Internet infrastructure.
Over the summer, we covered several communities that jumped to action to respond to the pandemic and came up with quick ways to implement long-term solutions. This week we checked in with the Canal Neighborhood network in San Rafael, California, as well as Every1online in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to see how they were doing and what is in store for the future.
This week on the podcast, Christopher talks with Belle Ryder, Orono, Maine Assistant Manager and President of the nonprofit OTO Fiber Corporation. The towns of Orono and nearby Old Town began their search for better broadband more than 10 years ago, and have overcome an array of challenges in bringing a pilot project to justify future-proof connectivity to the surrounding area.
Colorado House passes bill that reduces broadband board membership and conceals mapping data
Michigan legislature approves bill granting ISPs property tax exemptions
New Mexico and Virginia bills await governors’ action
The State Scene
Tennessee is home to some of the most creative local solutions to bridging the digital divide. Municipal fiber networks across the state, including Chattanooga’s EPB Fiber network, Morristown’s FiberNet, and Bristol’s network, have been a boon to economic development, job creation, educational initiatives, and overall quality of life in the past decade.
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance's Net Inclusion conference this year is a webinar series, running eight consecutive weeks between April 7 and May 26. One-hour webinars at 1pm ET on Wednesday each week will feature a diverse cast of policy experts, advocates, city officials, and nonprofits to talk about what's going on at the local and state level. Register free here.
Knoxville, a city of approximately 187,000 residents and the home of the University of Tennessee, is aiming to become the Volunteer State's next gig city. Earlier this month, the Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) Board of Commissioners approved a business plan that, if approved, will set the utility on a path to bring high-speed Internet connectivity to its more than 468,000 customers spread out across Knoxville, Knox County, and small parts of seven neighboring counties.