The successful history of rural electrification, as one example, is due in no small part to municipal electric cooperatives that lit up corners of this country where investor-owned utilities had little incentive to go. Those coops turned on the lights for a lot of people! You know, our country would be a lot better off if we would learn from our past rather than try to defy or deny it.
When incumbent providers cannot serve the broadband needs of some localities, local governments should be allowed--no, encouraged--to step up to the plate and ensure that their citizens are not left on the wrong side of the great divide. So it is regrettable that some states are considering, and even passing, legislation that could hinder local solutions to bring the benefits of broadband to their communities. It's exactly the wrong way to go.
FCC Commissioner Copps spoke at the SEATOA Conference in Asheville, North Carolina, on Tuesday. He went out of his way to condemn legislation that would preempt the authority of local governments to build broadband networks, echoing a similar statement from his colleague, Commissioner Clyburn.
But he started with a discussion about the importance of broadband access to the Internet:
Getting broadband out to all our citizens is not just something that would be nice for us to do. It is something essential for us to do if we want to provide individuals the opportunity to live productive and fulfilling lives in the Twenty-first century and something equally imperative if we want our country to have a competitive edge in this challenging world.
But he moved on to highlight the importance of communities having the right to build their own networks, should they deem it necessary:
When incumbent providers cannot serve the broadband needs of some localities, local governments should be allowed--no, encouraged--to step up to the plate and ensure that their citizens are not left on the wrong side of the great divide. So it is regrettable that some states are considering, and even passing, legislation that could hinder local solutions to bring the benefits of broadband to their communities. It's exactly the wrong way to go. In this context, too, our previous infrastructure challenges must be the guide. The successful history of rural electrification, as one example, is due in no small part to municipal electric cooperatives that lit up corners of this country where investor-owned utilities had little incentive to go. Those coops turned on the lights for a lot of people! You know, our country would be a lot better off if we would learn from our past rather than try to defy or deny it.
We strongly support his comments, while emphasizing that an incumbent that simply provides DSL or cable services must not be construed as necessarily serving the broadband needs of communities. Many of the best broadband networks in this...Read more
Google's Gigabit Chief, Milo Medin (actual title: VP for Access Services), told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the FCC takes too long to make decisions, causing uncertainty for a variety of companies and slowing innovation.
But more interestingly, he advocated that federal and state governments stop making it hard for local communities to build their own broadband networks.
Medin also advocated for a policy loathed by some parts of the cable industry: municipal broadband.
"Localities know more about what works for their communities than state governments or the federal government do. In the end, we feel that while this is probably not the right choice in many cases, it is something that should not be prohibited," he said.
Allowing communities to address their own broadband needs could help extend broadband to rural areas, according to Medin.
We have been offering in-depth coverage of Time Warner Cable's efforts to strip communities of that authority in North Carolina as well as other issues around preemption.
Medin's statement echoes that of the FCC National Broadband Plan: "Congress should make clear that Tribal, state, regional and local governments can build broadband networks." This recommendation was recently Reiterated by FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn:
I recently learned that several state legislatures are considering bills that are contrary to the deployment objectives of the Broadband Plan. For example, in North Carolina, the state legislature is currently evaluating legislation entitled ‘Level Playing Field/Local Government Competition.’ Last week the North Carolina House passed the bill, and it currently awaits consideration in the Senate. This piece of legislation certainly sounds goal-worthy, an innocuous proposition, but do not let the title fool you. This measure, if enacted, will not only fail to level the playing field; it will discourage municipal governments from addressing deployment in communities where the private...
Several days at the National Conference for Media Reform in Boston gave me time to reflect on the importance of protecting local authority to build, own, and operate their own networks connecting people and businesses to the Internet. Multiple presentations focused on the importance of and strategies for ensuring access to the Internet is not controlled by a few companies -- and most of these strategies are focused at federal government agencies and Congress.
While we support these efforts, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance is not a DC-centric organization. We try to help folks in DC learn about what is happening outside the beltway, but our passion and work focuses directly on helping local communities invest in themselves and preserve their self-determination.
Access to the Internet will likely be the key infrastructure investment that determines how well communities fare in the coming years. Unfortunately, they have very little control over how those investments are made when the networks are owned by private, absentee companies. Efforts like Universal Service Fund reform, fixing the FCC, re-writing the telecom act, and ensuring network neutrality depend on overcoming incredibly powerful (due to their scale and lobbying power) interests in Washington, DC. But local communities have very little power outside their borders... with some in state capitals and practically none in the nation's capital.
Attacks at the state level on the fundamental right of communities to build this essential infrastructure are intended to eliminate their one means of gaining some control over their digital future. Too many states already ban or limit local authority to build these networks -- and with the Time Warner Cable bill to crush community networks in North Carolina picking up steam and South Carolina's similar attack even on broadband stimulus projects, we will see hundreds more communities with no power to ensure their citizens and businesses have access to fast, reliable, and affordable access to the Internet.
This is deeply concerning. Taking away the one tool...Read more
FCC Commissioner Clyburn Mignon has released a statement opposing "Anti-Municipal Broadband Legislation" [pdf], especially singling out the Time Warner Cable bill to kill community broadband in North Carolina.
STATEMENT BY FCC COMMISSIONER MIGNON L. CLYBURN ON PROPOSED ANTI-MUNICIPAL BROADBAND LEGISLATION
I have serious concerns that as the Federal Communications Commission continues to address broadband deployment barriers outlined in the National Broadband Plan, new obstacles are being erected that are directly contrary to the Plan’s recommendations and goals.
I recently learned that several state legislatures are considering bills that are contrary to the deployment objectives of the Broadband Plan. For example, in North Carolina, the state legislature is currently evaluating legislation entitled ‘Level Playing Field/Local Government Competition.’ Last week the North Carolina House passed the bill, and it currently awaits consideration in the Senate. This piece of legislation certainly sounds goal-worthy, an innocuous proposition, but do not let the title fool you. This measure, if enacted, will not only fail to level the playing field; it will discourage municipal governments from addressing deployment in communities where the private sector has failed to meet broadband service needs. In other words, it will be a significant barrier to broadband deployment and may impede local efforts to promote economic development.
The National Broadband Plan recommended that Congress clarify that State, regional, and local governments should not be restricted from building their own broadband networks. When providers cannot meet the needs of local communities, the Plan provides that State, regional, and local entities should be able to respond accordingly, as they were able to do when municipal governments distributed electricity to thousands of rural communities during the 20th Century. Unfortunately, this National Broadband Plan recommendation continues to be ignored by some broadband industry members that are encouraging these misguided efforts.
Not long after the National Broadband Plan was issued, I had the privilege to visit North Carolina and speak about the goals in the Plan, and the importance of our...
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance is pleased to release the Community Broadband Map and report, Publicly Owned Broadband Networks: Averting the Looming Broadband Monopoly. The map plots the 54 cities, big and small, that own citywide fiber networks and another 79 own citywide cable networks. Over 3 million people have access to telecommunications networks whose objective is to maximize value to the community in which they are located rather than to distant stockholders and corporate executives.
ILSR has been tracking telecommunications developments at the local and state level, working with citizens and businesses to preserve their self-determination in the digital age.
Quietly, virtually unreported on, a new player has emerged in the United States telecommunications sector: publicly owned networks. Today over 54 cities, big and small, own citywide fiber networks while another 79 own citywide cable networks. Over 3 million people have access to telecommunications networks whose objective is to maximize value to the community in which they are located rather than to distant stockholders and corporate executives.
Even as we grow ever more dependent on the Internet for an expanding part of our lives, our choices for gaining access at a reasonable price, for both consumers and producers, are dwindling. Tragically, the Federal Communications Commission has all but abdicated its role in protecting open and competitive access to the Internet.
Now more than ever we need to know about the potential of public ownership. To serve that need the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has published an interactive Community Broadband Map that gives the location and basic information for existing city owned cable and fiber networks.
The communities featured on the Community Broadband Map have overcome many formidable obstacles to build their networks. The results are impressive: millions of dollars of community savings; some of the best broadband networks in the country offering a real choice to residents...Read more
Despite the FCC's lack of interest (or rather, Chairman G's lack of interest) in actually defending Network Neutrality and protecting the open Internet, we must defend the right of the FCC to ensure an Open Internet. Such is life... And right now a House amendment would deny funding to the FCC to implement net neutrality rules.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), has authored Amendment 404 (aptly numbered, for us protocol geeks) to gut FCC authority to oversee companies like Comcast and AT&T. This goes above and beyond what even those carriers are asking for, though they no doubt hope it succeeds. For a quick primer on network neutrality, check out this infographic.
This amendment may be attached to the Continuing Resolution necessary to keep the government running -- a crucial resolution to pass. We have to get on the horn to ensure Representative vote against this resolution to ensure the FCC has the authority it needs to do its job (preventing AT&T, Comcast, et al. from becoming supreme gate keepers of the Internet). Many Republicans may be lost causes here due to party line discipline. However, a number of Democrats are leaning toward voting with Republicans on this issue, including one of Minnesota's: Representative Colin Peterson from the 7th District. If you are a constituent of these Representatives, make sure you contact them! Representative Peterson has previously voted in favor of network neutrality, so it is important to find out why he has changed his mind.
Network Neutrality had long been a bi-partisan issue with both Democrats and Republicans seeking to preserve the open Internet. But recently Republicans have been swayed by powerful interests that want big companies to decide how we can access the Internet.
These are key representatives that should be contacted. If you are a constituent or know people who are, make sure they call or email immediately!
As you observe (or hopefully, participate in), the debates around network neutrality or universal service fund reform, remember that many of the loudest voices in support of industry positions are likely to be astroturf front groups. Between extremely well-financed astroturf organizations and industry-captured regulatory agencies, creating good policy that benefits the public is hard work. It helps to study how industry has gamed the FCC in the past -- as documented by David Rosen and Bruce Kushnick in a recent Alternet article.
At the risk of being sarcastic, we can thank the FCC for working with the industry to make our phone bills to easy to read - an example is available here.
Readers of this site may be interested in an upcoming debate between Craig Settles and Blair Levin, the architect and chief defender of the National Broadband Plan. On Monday, Feburary 7, New America will host and webcast the event. Tune in at 10:00 EST to hear these two discuss the plan, with moderators Amy Schatz (Wall Street Journal), Stacey Higginbotham (GigaOm), and Cecilia Kang (Washington Post).
Craig is a champion for local, community owned networks, whereas Blair Levin justified the National Broadband Plan's turning a blind eye to the lack of competition in broadband by saying it would have been unpopular with the massive carriers to challenge their dominance.