Benton Senior Fellow Jonathan Sallet called for a new national broadband agenda. Over the past year, Jon has been talking to broadband leaders around the country, asking about who’s currently connected and who’s not. You can read Jon’s findings in Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s. Jon delivered the keynote address at the Broadband Communities conference in Virginia on Wednesday.
The purpose of Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s is to collect, combine, and contribute to a national broadband agenda for the next decade, enlisting the voices of broadband leaders in an ongoing discussion on how public policy can close the digital divide and extend digital opportunity everywhere. Leaders at all levels of government should ensure that everyone is able to use High-Performance Broadband in the next decade by embracing the following building blocks of policy:
Building new broadband infrastructure is a big investment for any municipality. While the cost of that investment shouldn’t be overlooked, it’s equally important to consider the significant cost savings that can be reaped with publicly owned infrastructure. Many cities have slashed the cost of connecting their schools to broadband by opting to build their own infrastructure, instead of continuing to pay a private provider for connections. Portland (OR), for example, had been paying an incumbent provider $1,310 per month for 10 Mbps connections to schools.
It's easy to say all Americans should be able to use the Internet in the 21st century, which is probably why several leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination have done just that. It’s much harder to say how to get there. Almost everyone, even on both sides of the aisle in Congress, seems able to agree on the need to fix the maps first. That’s because the Federal Communications Commission relies on coverage reports from industry, and carriers have incentive to exaggerate their reach.
Fifteen Mississippi rural electric cooperatives have won a combined total of $65 million in rural broadband funding through the CARES Act passed earlier in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The money came indirectly through the state, which carved out $75 million for rural broadband from a larger pool of funding it received through the act. The rural electric cooperatives must spend the funding they were awarded before the end of the year and must invest an additional $65 million of their own in the broadband projects.
The most likely scenario for success is the addition of broadband service to an existing electric or telephone cooperative’s portfolio. In this case, an entity with experience in running a customer-facing operation and network for decades simply expands its service. The cooperatives are already serving mostly rural customers and do not crowd out for-profit cable and telecom providers. The Federal Communications Commission has recognized this and has explicitly included electric cooperatives in the Connect America Fund II initiative.
Hamilton County Schools (HCS) is joining with EPB of Chattanooga (TN) and other community partners to ensure all students can access the internet for online learning as the COVID-19 crisis continues. Made possible by support from local private and public partners and by having a community-wide fiber optic network in place, HCS EdConnect powered by EPB is a new initiative that will provide internet services to about 28,500 economically challenged students in Hamilton County Schools in the greater Chattanooga area—at no charge to the family.
Municipal Broadband has been a major failure as far as costs to taxpayers without increasing the number of homes that have access or increase internet adoption in non-users. Our panel will go over the evidence and then talk about strategies that might actually work to connect the unconnected.
Advocates for municipal broadband are, if anything, persistent.
In comments submitted to the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee as they develop their party platforms for 2020, New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) made recommendations on the following: