Do your Representatives Know Your Views on Broadband?

As I have considered writing yet another post about this debacle in North Carolina, I worried that readers outside of North Carolina might ignore it, thinking they cannot help and it doesn't impact them. Well, we can all learn a lesson from the fight in North Carolina to preserve local self-determination. The same forces that are pushing North Carolina to crush the rights of communities to build the infrastructure they need are talking to elected officials and policymakers across the country. They are saying that the U.S. really does not have a broadband problem, that people are happy with their DSL and cable options. Elected officials and policymakers very seldom hear from the other side - as Philip Dampier notes here and reinforces in the comment section here. Sure, most states have organizations like a League of Cities or Munis or Towns and these organization are often fairly powerful. However, very few state legislatures have anyone speaking consistently for the rights of consumers. In DC, Free Press, Public Knowledge, and Media Access Project all do good work on the federal level but have little capacity to work on the state level. I try to help in state efforts wherever possible, but we have neither the funding nor staffing to really offer substantial help on any of these issues. Someone needs to represent the interests of broadband subscribers -- and right now the only option is YOU. The folks at Stop the Cap! often make that easier by keeping you informed and providing the information you need to contact reps and policymakers. But you need to make the call. When you contact your reps to tell them you are not happy with your services and your choices in broadband, they are less likely to buy the industry claims that everything is hunky-dory and there is no reason for new policies that would encourage competition or allow communities to build for themselves the networks that no one else will. When you do not make calls or write to your Reps, they de-prioritize broadband and are easily convinced by lobbyists that broadband is not an important issue. When people like Senator Hoyle in North Carolina claim that everyone has enough broadband is happy with it, they should be met with terrific skepticism - with other Senators immediately saying, "No, they aren't. I get x calls a day about the need for better broadband." In North Carolina, it is essential that people immediately call and write their Representatives to demand they oppose the House version of S.1209. This is no time to prevent communities from building the networks they need. Communities without the power to build the infrastructure they need have no self-determination. If you don't remind your elected officials that you also need better broadband or more choices, your state might be next. And don't stop at writing directly to your state officials. Write to your local officials and tell them to tell the folks at the state level.