In exchange for obtaining a valuable license to operate a broadcast station using the public airwaves, each radio and television licensee is required by law to operate its station in the “public interest, convenience and necessity.” This means that it must air programming that is responsive to the needs and problems of its local community of license. In addition, how other media facilitate community discussions.
On Monday, September 26, Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Director of Research and Fellowships Dr. Revati Prasad hosted an online panel discussion, From the Ground Up: Broadband Mapping By and for Communities, on how communities and states are collecting data on local broadband availability as the Federal Communications Commission rolls out the Broadband Data Collection (BDC) program.
For years, people have quietly endured exploitative and increasingly expensive internet services while relying on crumbling infrastructure. That all changed recently when a new local cooperative built internet infrastructure in Southwest Detroit. This new internet option, a point-to-point mesh network, is run by organizers from Grace in Action. Created in 2015, the program is called the Equitable Internet Initiative (EII) and is a partnership with the Detroit Community Technology Project.
The Roman philosopher Seneca said that good luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. In what the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society has called “our broadband moments,” preparation requires bold community leadership that moves a community to gather data and build trusted relationships allowing them to be ready to act when opportunity arises. President Biden has pledged to make sure that every American has access to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet. Full participation in our twenty-first century economy requires no less.
One might think this is the moment for community broadband networks. The truth is, locally-directed networks have been serving their communities for a long, long time. In discussing his administration’s plans for broadband, President Joe Biden noted that municipal and cooperative networks should be favored because these providers face less pressure to turn profits and are more committed to serving entire communities.
In October 2019, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society issued Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s. The agenda was comprehensive, constructed upon achievements in communities and insights from experts across the nation. The report outlined the key building blocks of broadband policy—deployment, competition, community anchor institutions, and digital equity (including affordability and adoption).
How can America’s communities secure the benefits of fiber-optic infrastructure? Our answer is that local governments need not accept a binary option of waiting for the private sector to solve the problem—which the private sector already would have done if it made business sense—or taking on the challenge entirely as a public enterprise. Rather, public-private collaboration can disrupt this binary and give communities options.
The media merger pot keeps boiling. It appears that the Federal Communications Commission is about to approve another damaging deal, this one between Nexstar and Tribune. Nextar owns 171 television stations in 100 markets and Tribune has 44 stations in 33 markets. That translates into a national audience reach of 72 percent of U.S.
Again, and again, I’ve heard that when people live in areas unserved and underserved by broadband networks, businesses are hard-pressed to start, grow, or stay there. Without the economic development and individual prospects enabled by competitive, advanced, and affordable broadband, people will find it harder to secure good-paying jobs, get training for future positions, or seek higher wages.
No matter who you voted for or what party you belong to, I think we can agree on one thing - access to high-speed broadband is one of the most important issues in the US today. In Congressional race after Congressional race, in Maine, Vermont, Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee, Colorado, Michigan, and New Mexico, just to name a few, voters said that broadband access was a top three issue, sometimes coming after health care and jobs, and other times, like in Vermont, coming in as the number one concern for voters.
The Coalition for Local Internet Choice and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors asked for my view of the Federal Communications Commission’s pending order, proposing to cap the fees that state and local governments may charge for small-cell attachments. According to the FCC’s draft order, these price‐caps will save the industry $2 billion in costs to operate in metropolitan areas—which will translate into $2.5 billion in new wireless investment, primarily in rural areas. Here are my concerns: