One of the reasons community broadband networks face so many unique hurdles (often created deliberately by states in response to cable/dsl lobbying) is because of the many ways in which campaign finance corrupts our national and state governments.
Community broadband networks are focused on meeting community needs, not sending lobbyist armies into Washington, DC, and state capitals (though one of things we do at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance is offer help to those that do push pro-community agendas in these areas).
To understand why DC is so focused on furthering the corporate agendas of AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and others, is to understand the revolving door. (Also, understanding capture -- which we have explained previously.)
In short, many of the people who make decisions about telecommunications policy in DC have worked, will work, or are presently working for the massive companies that effectively control access to the Internet in most of America's communities.
The good folks at Geke.US have created the following Comcast Venn Diagram illustrating a small piece of the DC revolving door.
Reforming this system is a deep, seemingly intractable problem. But for those looking for answers, a good place to start is with the work of Lawrence Lessig. I just finished his Republic, Lost, which offers a grand tour of the problems resulting from the present system of campaign finance.
You can also see a number of his presentations here.
His organization, the Rootstrikers aim to get to the root of problems rather than being distracted by trying to fix symptoms of deeper problems. This is precisely what we do with our focus on community networks.
Many focus solely on resolving digital divide issues, improving rural access to the Internet, lowering the cost of broadband, or the various other problems that result from narrowly-focused private corporations owning and controlling essential communications infrastructure with inadequate regulations.
Solving the problem of ensuring all Americans have fast, affordable, and reliable access to the Internet (a goal remarkably consistant with the FCC's supposed mission enshrined in law by the Communications Act), would be remarkably easier in a world where Congress and state legislators were not corrupted by the influence of the campaign finance system. This is why we emphatically support efforts (like those of Lessig) to reform that system.
Murfreesboro, Tennessee suddenly finds itself awash with looming broadband competitors thanks to the city’s booming growth. In less than a month, United Communications – owned by not-for-profit electric cooperative Middle Tennessee Electric (MTE) – and Google Fiber have unveiled major plans to expand affordable gigabit fiber within city limits. MTE-owned United Communications says it has some big plans for the city of 157,000, starting with broadband upgrades for the utilities’ 77,000 existing electricity customers.
The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) recently announced that its Community Broadband Projects of the Year Awards for 2023 will go to the Connexion network in Fort Collins, Colorado and TeamPharr.net in Pharr, Texas. Fort Collins is also a part of a municipal-owned communications partnership known as Northern Colorado Community Fiber, which received the Fiber Broadband Association Star Award for going “above and beyond what is expected in the advancement of Fiber-to-the-Home.”
One major barrier to providing universal access to fast, reliable and affordable Internet service–long recognized by ILSR, telecom experts, and a growing number of ordinary citizens–are the monopoly-friendly preemption laws that either outright ban or erect insurmountable barriers to municipal broadband. Here’s a look at what three of the 17 states with preemption laws are saying about those barriers in their BEAD Five Year Action Plans.
In November of 2022, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking detailing how the broadband nutrition label will be implemented. Industry and consumer advocates alike submitted nearly 250 filings during the public comment period. The FCC recently responded to three petitions it received from coalitions pushing back on the rules outlined in the proposed rulemaking.
Berthoud is the latest Colorado community to explore community broadband alternatives to expand public access to affordable fiber. Currently in the process of crafting a request for quote (RFQ), the city says it hopes to make its final determination by November and have a preliminary plan in place by the end of the year.
The key for states to unlock their portion of the $42.5 billion in federal BEAD funds is the submission and approval of their Five Year Action Plans and Final Proposal. Today, we will look at two states (Maine and Louisiana) and follow up with the others as we are getting a clearer picture of how each state intends to put this historic infusion of federal funds to use.