Battlin’ for Community Broadband from DC to NC and Beyond

Last week was pretty intense. Two cross-country trips that reflect the hope and the frustration of fighting for better broadband.

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In Washington, DC on Monday enduring the frustration of rolling that “public good” boulder once again up the hill of opposition made steep by the influence of corporate interests. In Salisbury, NC on Friday to lay down a message of hope for a community that faces the constant threat of Time Warner-driven anti-muni network legislation.

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You can catch my debate with Blair Levin on YouTube. Occasionally you get the impression here’s someone for whom pride of authorship has given them an air of superiority, that there is only one true way to solve our problems, even while acknowledging the plan is not perfect. If not superiority, then definitely a license to be overbearing in demeanor.

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I’ve been to DC enough times now to expect and shake off this type of behavior, so I focused on presenting my case for greater community involvement in broadband policy, programs and funding. Otherwise, without this involvement, we’re about to take $8 billion ANNUALLY of money that’s routed from almost every American to one group of service providers and most likely give it, under the goal of getting broadband to the underserved, to another, smaller group of providers. No surprise here, AT&T and Verizon will continue to get the lion’s share of that fund.

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I, for one, doubt reform will lead to anything spectacular in terms of communities getting the type of broadband they need. Unless there’s a whole lotta of broad-based community input that results in their active influence in the eventual funding processes. The FCC says they’re going all out in soliciting that type of input, which is excellent. However, this only leads to stellar results if the input is not only received, but also acted upon. And with so much obvious and implied deference to AT&T and Verizon coming out of DC, I’m not holding my breath here.

On the Salisbury, NC where I spoke at their 26th Annual Future Directions and Goal-Setting Conference. This was a welcome event because I was preaching to the choir that already has a fiber network up and running. My sermon focused on how communities can use their networks to impact economic development. You should check out the video at the end of the article in the Salisbury Post. Besides giving you the full impact of the points made, the video puts context around quotes in the article that might not be as clear otherwise.

Had I known that the NC legislature was going to introduce this week one of the most jacked up anti-muni network bills possible, I would have changed some of my presentation to call out this sham they call a “fair playing field” bill. Check out the write up from Chris Mitchell that has links to a more detailed and a less detailed analysis. Any way you read it, though, this bill is total b.s. and needs to be fought tooth and nail!

But wait, there’s more! A similar bill exists in S. Carolina. Sort of a wicked two-for-one package-from-hell deal.

Even if you don’t live in N. Carolina, if you’re an advocate for community broadband, do what you can to educate NC and SC legislators on the realities of these networks and the insidious threat incumbents like Time Warner represent. Make no mistake, if incumbents succeed in the Carolinas, they’re gonna make a play for your state. They’ll try to make existing anti-muni network legislation worse, and they’ll try to introduce these kind of into states where such laws don’t currently exist.

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