What do Free State Foundation, TechNet, Tech America, the National Grange, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, Women Involved in Farm Economics, the Urban League and Al Sharpton have in common?
They are all backing AT&T’s FCC Petition, which has the goal to close down telecommunications networks and create digital dead zones in about 50 percent of the country. Most disturbing, many of the endorsements of AT&T contradict the needs of their own constituents.
Members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the Georgia Legislature are pushing a bill to thwart locally-owned internet in underserved communities, an industry-sponsored effort that effectively reinforces the digital divide. A vote in the Georgia Assembly is scheduled for Thursday, March 7; if Georgia passes the bill it would be the twentieth state to eliminate community control over internet access.
Rural and Poor Communities Take Control of Internet
As many as one in ten Americans cannot get internet connections that are fast enough for basic activities like streaming video or file sharing, largely because big internet providers like AT&T and Time Warner Cable have refused to provide adequate service to communities where the population is too dispersed or too poor. As local economies become ever more dependent on internet access, though, this digital divide is leaving rural and low-income communities in the dust.
EDITORS NOTE: There are two primary campaigns being run by ALEC et al. The first is to block municipalities from upgrading their networks and offering services— 19 states already have changed their laws to block munis.
The second — close down all regulations on the wires — 23 states have already passed laws to do some if not remove all regulations.
Last year, we reported on the failed SB 135, which would have eliminated the “carrier of last resort” requirement in the state. The bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Paul Hornback would have let AT&T decide who could receive basic telephone service and would have limited consumer protections.
Last year’s bill did not become law, but a progeny, SB 88, has already passed in the Kentucky Senate and was received in the House on February 15th. (We’d like to report what committee will hear it first but the Kentucky Legislative web has not yet published that information.) Senator Hornback is again the chief author of the bill, crafted by AT&T and its ALEC pals.