LWV Rural Caucus: Broadband
The national LWV Rural Caucus will be advocating for better broadband nationwide, especially in rural areas.
Although this page is hosted on the LWVNM website, the Rural Caucus has members from across the nation, not just New Mexico. The Rural Caucus is currently an informal group, not officially recognized by the LWVUS.
This is a collection of information broadband advocates might find useful.
LWV Positions on Broadband
The LWVUS does not currently have a position on broadband.
We're looking for other state and local Leagues that have positions on broadband, or might want to concur with Connecticut's position.
Brookings Research: 5 steps to get the internet to all Americans, by Tom Wheeler, a former head of the FCC.
The US is ready to pay for broadband like the essential service it is (Aug 5, 2021): a discussion of the national infrastructure bill’s broadband plan.
Maps and Studies: How Bad is it Now?
The unfortunate answer is: there's no way to know.
Problems with existing studies:
- They only sample a small fraction of users.
- They don't distinguish between home users and companies or institutions. So, for example, a rural area with a university or national lab will look like it has excellent bandwidth even if home users have no internet access at all.
- They're only guessing about where each user lives: so-called "geolocation" can put you in the wrong county, the wrong state, or occasionally even the wrong country.
The FCC map is the worst. The FCC considers a census block served by a broadband provider if even one house or business in the block is served (Broadband Data and Mapping: Background and Issues for the 117th Congress, p. 13). But the FCC broadband map makes is even worse than that, coloring whole counties rather than Census blocks. More background: CNET: Millions of Americans can't get broadband because of a faulty FCC map. There's a fix.
Be aware of those issues when evaluating maps.
- FCC Broadband Map
- The Verge: This is a Map of America's Broadband Problem using open broadband data gathered by Microsoft
- The United States of Broadband lets you compare several different data sources
- Muninetworks Community Network Map: shows communities that have instituted community broadband.
In community broadband, some part of the broadband service -- at least the infrastructure, but sometimes the entire broadband consumer service -- is managed as a utility by a county or town, so residents aren't at the mercy of a monopolistic company that has no incentive to increase speeds, cut costs or improve infrastructure.
The Daily Yonder argues that Co-Ops, Wireless, and Partnerships Are Likeliest Ways to Connect Rural America. The National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association asks Congress: Be Bold in Funding Broadband That Meets Future Demand.
Chattanooga is a major success story on how to build community broadband that cuts costs for residents while at the same time boosting speeds. Some stories:
- How Chattanooga, Bristol, and Lafayette Built the Best Broadband in America
- Chattanooga's municipal broadband pays off with $2.69 billion in benefits
- Chattanooga Has Its Own Broadband - Why Doesn't Every City?
In some states, the telecommunication lobby has pushed through laws prohibiting community broadband. See:
- Broadband Now: Municipal Broadband Roadblocks
- Motherboard: The 21 Laws States Use to Crush Broadband Competition.
- Techdirt: Why The Hell Are States Still Passing ISP-Written Laws Banning Community Broadband?
Some locations that can't get their government to implement community broadband have done something similar on a volunteer basis, like New York: "Welcome to the Mesh, Brother": Guerrilla Wi-Fi Comes to New York.
These organizations are also working for better broadband access, and offer useful resources:
National Association of Counties: Broadband Task Force: High-Speed Internet Is Essential For All Counties
Institute for Local Self-Reliance and their Policy Brief: The Problem(s) of Broadband in America. "Digital Divide is Not Urban Vs. Rural, It\u2019s Both."
Common Cause: Broadband Gatekeepers: How ISP Lobbying and Political Influence Shapes the Digital Divide. "These [internet service provider] corporations spent an astounding $234 million on lobbying and federal elections during the 116th Congress [2020-2021]\u2014an average of more than $320,000 a day, seven days a week!".
Wondering if your state has had any recent broadband bills? The National Conference of State Legislatures has a list of Broadband 2021 Legislation, searchable by state. NCSL also has a page on state broadband task forces.
Victory! Californians Can Now Choose Their Broadband Destiny (EFF, 7/20/2021)
The goal is to create a commission to determine the scope of the problem in New Mexico, to distribute grants for community broadband and to help counties, towns and tribes with laying infrastructure and with applying for grant money. But nothing much has happened yet.
Vermont passed a broadband bill in May 2021 which allocates $150 million to expand internet access throughout the state.
- NPR: Virginia Shifts $700 million in Relief Funds to Boost Rural Broadband Access
- Washington Post: Northam announces $700 million plan to achieve universal broadband accessibility across Virginia
- The Verge: Virginia will invest $700 million to bring broadband to every household in the state
- from a Slashdot discussion: Details of the project, which nearly all the articles omit.