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.
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:
[Speech] On of the two historic accomplishments of the current Federal Communications Commission is that it is the first FCC to interpret its statutory mandate to say it doesn’t have much legal authority or policy rights to regulate broadcasters, telephone companies, cable companies, or wireless companies. Instead, its principal regulatory mandate is to regulate another set of enterprises: local governments.
[Commentary] As the son of a broadcast pioneer who got his license from the Department of Commerce in 1923 and as a former broadcaster myself, I read with great sadness “FCC to Lift Limits on Media Deals.” Although Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai justifies his proposal by saying it will lead to more news gathering locally and more news for consumers, my experience tells me it will be the opposite. First, viewers and listeners don’t need more news, they need better news.
A group of Waldo County (ME) residents is working to create an affordable broadband utility that every resident in Searsmont and four other towns should be able to access. The task force has been collecting data from residents and mapping the community's level of current Internet service, which members believe is low. To address this problem, Searsmont and the neighboring communities of Liberty, Palermo, Montville and Freedom have formed the Southwest Waldo County Broadband Coalition, which has a long-term plan of creating a municipally-owned public broadband utility.