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Last night, GOP Representative Marsha Blackburn, introduced an amendment intended to destroy local authority for telecommunications investment by severely limiting FCC funding. The amendment, introduced during debate on H.R. 5016, targets 20 states, many with state-erected barriers already in place and/or municipal networks already serving local communities.
The vote was postponed but is expected today (Wednesday) at approximately 2:30 p.m. ET. Now is the time to call the D.C. office of your Representative and tell him or her to vote NO on this amendment. If your Rep has a telecom staffer, ask to speak to him or her first.
The text of the amendment is as follows:
AMENDMENT TO H.R. 5016, AS REPORTED OFFERED BY MRS. BLACKBURN OF TENNESSEE
SEC. ll. None of the funds made available in this Act to the Federal Communications Commission may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws with respect to the provision of broadband Internet access service (as defined in section 8.11 of title 47, Code of Federal Regulations) by the State or a municipality or other political subdivision of the State.
Wheeler has argued that those laws were the result of incumbent broadband providers using their lobbying muscle--he used to be one of those himself as president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association--to try to block competition.
The National League of Cities (NLC), National Association of Counties (NACo), and National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) joined together this morning to send a letter to Congress expressing their opposition to anti-muni legislation being discussed in the House.
As we reported yesterday, it is imperative that concerned constituents speak out against two anticipated amendments that can stifle local investment or end local telecommunications authority. The amendments are expected within the next few days, so we need to act now.
Appropriations bill H.R. 5016, introduced on July 2nd, provides funding for financial services and general government, including the FCC. H.R. 5016 will be the vehicle to force through language to further restrict community broadband networks.
The amendment most damaging to local telecommunications authority is expected to come from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). The amendment's purpose is to remove authority from the FCC to preempt state laws preventing local broadband infrastructure investment. By restricting the FCC's use of its funding, the legislation will choke the agency's ability to explore its plan to influence anti-muni state barriers so local communities can decide their own fates.
As the NLC, NACo, and NATOA write in their letter to Congress:
The National League of Cities (NLC), the National Association of Counties (NACo), and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) strongly urges you to oppose any amendment to HR 5016 that would hamstring the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from taking any action on – indeed, even discussing – the issue of state laws that prohibit or restrict public and public/private broadband projects. It is clear that such laws harm both the public and private sectors, stifle economic growth, prevent the creation or retention of thousands of jobs, and hamper work force development.
If you missed Chris in D.C. at the New America Foundation on May 28th, you can still catch the action via the archived presentation.
Chris joined Joanne Hovis, Will Aycock, and Catharine Rice to discuss "Localism Over Consolidation: An Exploration of Public Broadband Options." New America Foundation writes:
Today, more and more communities are thinking of broadband as a local issue. Even large cities like Baltimore, Seattle and New York have recently begun public discussions about ways to improve broadband services and what role the local government could play in that improvement. Current technology policy debates about net neutrality and the potential Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger mean it is more important than ever that local governments play a more active role in ensuring their communities do not get left behind in the digital age.
New America’s Open Technology Institute presented a discussion of various approaches to local investment in broadband. The panel featured a diverse set of experts on public broadband networks and projects, including the manager of a municipal fiber network in Wilson, NC. Panelists discussed different approaches communities have taken so far and share thoughts on what steps other local governments can take going forward to support access to affordable and high-speed broadband.
The discussion runs just under 90 minutes.
"Localism Over Consolidation: An Exploration of Public Broadband Options" May 28th at New America Foundation in DC
New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute will host "Localism Over Consolidation: An Exploration of Public Broadband Options" from 9:30 - 11 a.m. on May 28th. Chris will be participating in the discussion; if you can't make it to DC, the event will be live streamed.
Conversation will focus on different approaches to improve connectivity and community strategies to make those approaches successful.
From the event page:
Today, more and more communities are thinking of broadband as a local issue. Even large cities like Baltimore, Seattle and Los Angeles have recently begun public discussions about ways to improve broadband services and what role the local government could play in that improvement. Current technology policy debates about net neutrality and the potential Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger mean it is more important than ever that local governments play a more active role in ensuring their communities do not get left behind in the digital age.
- Joanne Hovis,President, CTC Technology & Energy, @joannehovis
- Will Aycock, General Manager, Greenlight, Wilson, NC, @greenlightnc
- Catharine Rice, President, SouthEast Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (SEATOA), @seatoa
Sarah Morris, Senior Policy Counsel at the New America Open Technology Institute will moderate. You can sign up for the event and livestream on the 28th at the event page.
We have already published a fact sheet on the critical role community broadband plays in job development. Now, ILSR presents a collection of how community owned broadband networks save money for local government, schools, and libraries while providing cutting edge services. The Public Savings Fact Sheet is now available.
Though schools, libraries, and other community anchors need access to faster, more reliable networks, the big cable and telephone companies have priced those services so high that they are breaking the budget. But when communities create their own connections, affordable high capacity connections are only one of the benefits. A community owned network offers the promise of self-determination -- of upgrades on the community's time table and increased reliability for emergency responders.
The Public Savings Fact Sheet is a great piece to share to mobilize other members of your community. Share it with decision makers and use it to start meaningful conversations. Distribute it widely and often.
We are always developing new resources. If you have an idea for a new fact sheet, we want to hear it.
We previously noted a grassroots wireless initiative in Mount Pleasant that the Open Technology Institute is assisting and we are now cross-posting more details that they recently published. Thanks to Preston Rhea, who published this interview with one of the first volunteers to install a node.
We have brought you news about DC-Net before and have even highlighted the community network in our report, Breaking the Broadband Monopoly. Now we want to draw your attention to some videos they have produced.
Free WiFi hotspots all over town, secure indoor WiFi for government staff, and hundreds of miles of fiber throughout town are just a few of the advances DC-Net has made toward ubiquitous and reliable connectivity. DC-Net is a tremendous example of a publicly owned network providing the highest levels of performance for its subscribers.
DC-Net has released a video highlighting their advancements in DC and how their work has positively impacted the community.
The second video is from Don Johnson, Director of DC-Net, presenting some info on DC Community Access Network (DC-CAN) to a Ward 5 audience. DC-CAN is an initiative to bring broadband to the underserved areas in DC with middle-mile connections. From the DC-CAN website:
The DC Community Access Network (DC-CAN) will bring affordable, value-added broadband services to over 250 health, educational, public safety, and other community anchor institutions primarily in broadband underserved areas of the District. It also creates a high speed middle mile network for last mile service providers to deliver affordable broadband access to residents and businesses in underserved areas.
DC-CAN already has 67 miles of fiber laid as a backbone and four city MegaPOP sites are now connected to the 100G backbone. From Ciena, one of DC-Net's private sector partners:
With this new infrastructure in place, DC-Net has already connected 49 new Community Anchor Institutions to the network and upgraded 52 existing anchor sites. Community anchors include charter schools, health clinics and other health care providers, community-based training programs, after school and early childhood development programs, libraries, and public safety sites.
Our own Christopher Mitchell will be speaking at two upcoming events on broadband and the future of the Internet.
First, Christopher will be at F2C: Freedom to Connect in Washington, D.C., on May 21-22nd. Christopher will be speaking on May 22nd on the "Fight for Community Broadband" Panel along with other notables from the Free Press, Harvard University, the Center for Media & Democracy, and the SouthEast Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (SEATOA). The presentations will be at the AFI Silver Theatre and you can register here. If you can't attend in person, you can sign up for a webcast. From the F2C website:
F2C: Freedom to Connect is a conference devoted to preserving and celebrating the essential properties of the Internet. The Internet is a success today because it is stupid, abundant and simple. In other words, its neutrality, its openness to rapidly developing technologies and its layered architecture are the reasons it has succeeded where others (e.g., ISDN, Interactive TV) failed.
The Internet’s issues are under-represented in Washington DC policy circles. F2C: Freedom to Connect is designed to advocate for innovation, for creativity, for expression, for little-d democracy. The Freedom to Connect is about an Internet that supports human freedoms and personal security. These values, held by many of us whose consciousness has been shaped by the Internet, are not common on K Street or Capitol Hill or at the FCC.
If you are not yet familiar with Mount Pleasant, here’s a chance to learn about one of DC’s most vibrant neighborhoods. It’s a diverse area not far from downtown DC, featuring a main street lined with locally-owned businesses. Many of these shops and restaurants are owned and run by the area’s large Latino community, which has long been central to shaping the neighborhood’s character. However, over the past decade rising housing prices have pushed many in the Latino community east towards Georgia Avenue.
In May, I moved to Mount Pleasant and started to learn about the area. In order to encourage community-building and local empowerment and to increase local information-sharing and opportunities for civic engagement, I decided to use skills and ideas garnered from my work at the Open Technology Initiative to organize a community wireless network. Despite my excitement to get started, I didn’t want to rush in without first connecting with the people, the histories, networks, skill sets, and local knowledge already present in the community.
My first step was technical: with the help of my OTI colleagues, I specified the hardware for the network and prepared the technology for installation. The first-stage plan was to install a few “nodes” (wireless access points) in order to establish the form and structure of the mesh network - open, interoperable, unfiltered, and decentralized. Then, at the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market, I handed out fliers directing people to an online survey gauging their interest in organizing a community wireless network in the neighborhood. I also posted a few of the fliers in local businesses on Mount Pleasant Street. But I needed to go deeper in order to really connect with the existing social networks of people and projects.