Broadband Resources (LWV Rural Caucus)
The national LWV Rural Caucus is 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
Connecticut was the first state League to have a position on broadband. Tennessee and New Mexico concurred with Connecticut, and at the 2022 LWV National Convention, the LWVUS voted to concur. So now any League anywhere can use the national position.
The Looming Battle Over How to Set ‘Low Cost’ Broadband Prices: how do you define affordable, and what should be required of programs benefitting from federal infrastructure grants?
Brookings Research: 5 steps to get the internet to all Americans, by Tom Wheeler, a former head of the FCC.
The Island Institute in Rockland, Maine published Accessing Broadband in Your Community through the Community-Driven Broadband Process, a 20-page PDF guide to help communities connect.
National (US) Legislation
May 18, 2022: We Finally Have a Federal Fiber Broadband Plan that prioritizes installation of open-access fiber optic lines. What will the states do in response?
November 9, 2021: Infrastructure Bill Passes: ‘Our Broadband Moment’ points out that the federal funding is only for unserved areas, not underserved areas: it will help the very rural customers (which is terrific), but it won't help small towns who currently have slow, unevenly distributed or overpriced service from Big Telecom.
Aug 2, 2021: The US is ready to pay for broadband like the essential service it is: a discussion of the national infrastructure bill’s broadband plan.
How to find out more about what your state is doing to take advantage of these funds: State Broadband Task Forces, Commissions, or Authorities
How do Other Countries Do It?
Most countries use a model called Local Loop Unbundling (see also here and ). Basically, the fiber and copper infrastructure used to carry broadband can be used by any company, so there's a competitive market for internet services instead of a monopoly by a single company that owns the infrastructure. This is why most developed countries have broadband services much faster than those in the US, for as little as a tenth the cost.
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. More recently, Comcast gave false map data to FCC—and didn’t admit it until Ars got involved.
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 town, county, or wider ranging co-op. Residents aren't at the mercy of a for-profit monopoly 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.
States having great success with community- or state-owned fiber even to rural areas:
- Garden Spot of Utah Moves to Build Bountiful Fiber Network in Face of Dark Money Campaign
- How Local Providers Built the Nation’s Best Internet Access in Rural North Dakota
- Utah's "Utopia Fiber"
- California has passed a broadband infrastructure law, and several rural CA counties have banded together to create Golden State Connect
At the city level, 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 actually 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?
Be on guard to make sure your state doesn't pass similar legislation!
Even where there's no legislation against community broadband, be prepared for telecom companies to lobby hard against community efforts. For instance, read how Charter funded a lobbying group to defeat community broadband in Maine.
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:
Community Networks has a wealth of stories and case studies on localities that have successfully implemented community broadband.
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)
March 11, 2022: Illinois is considering a bill, SB 3683, which could block government-owned fiber and possibly block the use of federal financial assistance. See How a State Can Blow a Once-in-a-Generation Investment to Close the Digital Divide from the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society.
In 2021, New Mexico passed two related broadband bills: HB10: Broadband Development Division, and SB93 Broad Band Access and Expansion Act, 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.
In 2022, a few areas have seen progress, and the legislature passed HJR1, a proposed constitutional amendment (must be approved by the voters in November) which would make it easier for government agencies to invest in broadband infrastructure.
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.