Statewide video franchising agreements,enacted in many states, have undermined consumer protections previouslyprovided by local franchising agreements. Analysisof the effects of statewide video franchises found that consumers in statesthat have enacted statewide franchising laws have seen their cable servicebills go up 8 to 50 percent, depending on the level of service. Further, consumer's complaints, instates with statewide video franchising, remain high with 74% of surveyrespondents reporting no reduction in the level of complaints.
Despite the evidence to the contrary, serviceproviders have argued for years that the streamlined process of statewide videofranchises, instead of local franchising agreements, could have benefits forthe public; such as slightly increasing competition or facilitating a morestrategic statewide universal deployment plan. These providers with interests in breaking into the TV industry, have putintense pressure on legislatures to adopt statewide video franchises. The problem is that industry playersoppose the public interest requirements that always have gone hand-in-hand withfranchise deals.
Finding funding for high-speedInternet in state budgets can be a daunting task, but the rewards of potentialgreater economic growth, more accessible health care, energy savings andincreased educational benefits make the investment more than worth it.
Wireless and wired technologies allow municipalities to offer a means to bridge the digital divide. Communities are now building their own wired and/or wireless “Community Internet” systems, using fiber optic cables or unlicensed space on the public airways to provide dependable high-speed Internet connections to homes all across America.
Municipalities seeking to provide affordable high-speed Internet to their residents have had to deal with special interest legislation at the state level designed to shut down municipal networks. In an effort to stifle competition and protect their profits, service providers are pushing bills in state legislatures that would prohibit communities from setting up high-speed Internet networks, prevent competition and undercut local control--even in rural and low-income areas not currently served by large providers. More than a dozen states now have laws on the books restricting cities and towns from building their own high-speed Internet networks.
Many states have
created funds to help encourage
private sector investment in high-speed Internet infrastructure. These states typically employ matching
grants to improve the financial feasibility for service providers to expand
operations to previously un-served areas.
Other states have issued direct funding for projects or research,
including the creation of public sector entities that use state funds to
construct and lease high-speed Internet infrastructure.
Once under-served populations are determined, affordable high-speed Internet needs to be deployed to these individuals. The first step to successful deployment of broadband Internet infrastructure is for states to create broadband authorities, consisting of diverse stakeholders, capable of developing a smart deployment strategy.
Broadband authorities provide a forum for public/private collaboration and “big picture”policy direction. Any legislation establishing an authority should require the council consist of diverse members representing various stakeholders and experts with the express purpose of protecting municipalities’ rights, and establishing clear deployment and adoption goals and accountability metrics.
State money should support public access channels and
alternative online media to amplify the voice of marginalized and
under-represented communities in our democracy.Continuing support forpublic,
educational and governmental (PEG) access channels, some of the only
remaining media outlets that broadcast local voices and cover local issues,
will allow for targeted programming by and for particular segments of the
community that might not be served by major outlets.
Children are tomorrow’s workforce. Therefore, it is imperative that in
their education, they receive instruction on necessary digital skills. In order
to ensure that children from all backgrounds receive the necessary training to
be able to participate in an increasingly digital world, states should promote
digital skills as a priority for children. Digital literacy programs should be integrated into
classrooms, after-school programs, and at libraries or other places children
spend their time.
Strengthening the national network of community technologycenters will create real-world technology training for the nextgeneration. CommunityTechnology (CT) is the purposeful use of computers, Internet, and digitalcommunication systems by non-profit and community-based organizations toenhance the delivery of mission in a way that helps people develop technologyliteracy skills through beneficial, hands-on interaction with technology.
Some states such as California, Illinois,NorthCarolina andOhio, have established a fund or council to address the digital divide. WashingtonState has recently taken aggressive steps to increase digital literacy.The Washington State legislature allocated $500,000 to supportWashington's Community Technology programs. SenateBill 6438 created a statewide high-speed Internet development process andestablished the Community Technology Opportunity Program (CTOP) that willprovide resources for capacity-building forand grant-giving to Community Technology programs that provide hands-ontechnology access and training to residents. Additionally, the legislationdevelops a high-speed Internet deployment and adoption strategy through amulti-sector work plan, as well as a statewideweb directory of Community Technology programs will be developed.
The digital divide not only refers to the gap in high-speed Internet access between the certain demographics, particularly low-income households andracial minorities, but also refers to imbalances in the resources and skills needed to effectivelyparticipate as a digital citizen.
In order to accomplish digital inclusion, states need tolook beyond simply investing in physical infrastructure. Low incomeindividuals and people of color, groups that are frequently disenfranchised inother parts of society, often have fewer opportunities to gain essentialdigital skills. Aside from being left out of the technological age,individuals without necessary digital skills may soon find themselvesunqualified for many employment opportunities. Mostworkforce professionals acknowledge the critical role that IT skills -- everythingfrom basic literacy to more dynamic “knowledge economy” skills -- play insuccessful job seeking. Today,according to Department of Labor statistics, over 80% of newjobs will require computer skills. Past studies have shown that there is a great mismatch between adultsentering the labor market and the technology skills that are required for work.
Along with high-speed Internet adoption, states need toaddress these issues of digitalempowerment and digital opportunity,including the need to provide essential work force training, funding community technology centers whereresidents can gain digital skills, and support for alternative media where theexcluded can have their voices heard in the digital civic debate. Technologyliteracy programs should focus on providing the necessary skills to bridge notonly the digital divide, but the social and economic divide in states,including employment skills, financial literacy, economic self-empowerment andhow to access civic information.
Core Policies To Help Increase Technology Literacy and Inclusion Policies:
As the Supreme Court marches to the Right, corporate interests continue
to thrive at the expense of state regulatory powers. "This has been a
very successful year for the business community," said Miguel Estrada,
a Washington appellate lawyer who represents many key corporate
interests before courts in Washington, D.C." This session at the U.S.
Supreme Court, as this Dispatch will highlight, had an almost
uniform tilt towards business versus state regulatory authority. In
other areas like election law, the tilt was against poor voters who
faced restrictions on their right to vote, though the term was a more
mixed bag on criminal justice and other issues before the Court.