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

The LWVUS does not currently have a position on broadband.

Three state Leagues that we know of have broadband positions: Connecticut, New Mexico, and Tennessee. New Mexico and Tennessee's positions are concurrences with Connecticut's.

We're looking for other state and local Leagues that have positions on broadband, or might want to concur with Connecticut's position.

General Articles

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.

Community Scope: Bringing Broadband to Rural America.

The Hill reports on the staggering amounts the major internet providers are spending to block support for municipal broadband networks in the infrastructure bill.

How fast does a connection need to be?

The current federal definition of "broadband" is 25 megabits per second download and three megabits per second upload (abbreviated as 25/3 Mbps).

Ernesto Falcon of the EFF argues that the 25/3 Mbps standard was already antiquated in 2015 when it was adopted. Former FCC head Tom Wheeler agrees that the 25/3 Mbps standard is antiquated.

Though keep in mind that many US customers in rural and poor communities still have internet connections far slower than that — in other words, their internet connections aren't considered broadband.

In a more recent article, Falcon states The Future Is in Symmetrical, High-Speed Internet Speeds: specifically he recommends 100 Mbps of download and 100 Mbps of upload (100/100 Mbps), though this view is controversial.

How fast is your connection? Test it: • Speedtest.netFast.com

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?

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?

[United States of Broadband map]

The unfortunate answer is: there's no way to know.

Problems with existing studies:

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.

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.

Success Stories

States having great success with community- or state-owned fiber even to rural areas:

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:

Cautionary Tales

In some states, the telecommunication lobby has pushed through laws actually prohibiting community broadband. See:

Be on guard to make sure your state doesn't pass similar legislation!

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.

Possible Allies

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.

Benton Institute for Broadband and Society.

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!".

State-specific Legislation

Jump to:CaliforniaIllinoisNew MexicoVermontVirginia

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.

California

Victory! Californians Can Now Choose Their Broadband Destiny (EFF, 7/20/2021)

Illinois

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.

New Mexico

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.

On Aug 4-6, 2021, the Interim Indian Affairs Committee discussed an interim report on the Rural Infrastructure Needs Study.

Vermont

Vermont passed a broadband bill in May 2021 which allocates $150 million to expand internet access throughout the state.

Virginia