Dear Friends of Local Internet Choice,
We are writing to you with a request for help and for action.
As you know, last month the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that the FCC did not have the authority to grant relief to communities that are stymied in their efforts to exercise local Internet choice by anti-competition laws promoted by dominant incumbent phone and cable service providers in state legislatures. Despite the amazing track record and extraordinary efforts of the communities of Wilson, NC, and Chattanooga, TN, disastrous state laws will now continue to prohibit their network expansion into surrounding unserved and underserved communities where the need for broadband is dire—and the private sector has no adequate upgrade or expansion plans.
As a result of the Sixth Circuit decision, too, communities in the 48 other states no longer have the option of turning to the FCC for relief from anti-competition laws—either those that exist currently in about 20 states, or those that we fear may be introduced in state legislatures in coming years.
Indeed, one of the many troubling outcomes of the Sixth Circuit decision is that we anticipate that incumbents or their representatives will lobby for new anti-competition laws in a range of states in the next state legislative sessions, which begin in January. As you may recall, after the great setback a decade ago in which the Supreme Court held that local governments were not protected in their exercise of local Internet choice under another component of the Communications Act, we saw an emboldened industry push for aggressive and adverse laws in many state legislatures during the following session. This is what we fear for the 2017 state legislative session. The scenario may be compounded by the natural confusion and upheaval that comes from the political cycle and the fact that many states will have new governors and substantial changes in their legislative bodies—creating an opportunity for bad legislation to make its way into law, largely under the radar.
We are further concerned about the shape the new laws could take. We anticipate that they will subtly attempt to preclude the emergence of competitive public–private partnerships and competitive private networks, as well as of traditional “municipal” broadband models. Indeed, laws targeting public–private partnerships were introduced in Missouri and Colorado last year and we helped beat them back. We fully expect many more of their ilk this coming year. We are already hearing rumors that draft legislation is in the works that would prohibit or create enormous barriers to innovations like the leasing of government-owned conduit and fiber to private entities—or would erect roadblocks designed to appear reasonable, but effectively would stymie local collaboration between public and private entities.
This is the dynamic that advocates of local Internet choice fear—and cannot allow to emerge. We are asking for your help to anticipate and then resist what may be the worst legislative session for local community broadband and public–private partnerships in a decade. Please consider supporting the cause and the broader pro-Internet community in the following ways:
=>First, join us in Minneapolis for our CLIC Day, October 18, to plan and share ideas at the Broadband Communities “Fiber for the New Economy” conference. On that day, we will launch not only our ideas for the new administration and Congress, but also share ideas and best practices for preparing for the 2017 legislative session. CLIC Day will also be an opportunity to network with other public and private entities that share our concerns about legislation intended to preclude the emergence of broadband competition. More information about the CLIC event is here, and the full Broadband Communities conference agenda is here. Our thanks to Broadband Communities for its ongoing partnership in the effort to secure local Internet choice.
=>Second, mark your calendars now for the next CLIC event at the Broadband Communities Summit in Dallas on May 1-4, 2017. The timing of this event—in the heart of some state legislative sessions and toward the tail end of others—will be critical for discussing lessons learned at the state level, as well as for reviewing the first few months of a new presidential administration in which broadband infrastructure issues are likely to have a higher profile than ever before.
=>Third, support CLIC in our efforts to protect and secure local Internet choice. We are an all-volunteer organization, supported by our members and volunteers. Among other major efforts underway, we are commissioning the preparation of state advocacy toolkits for our colleagues and members at the state level to utilize in resisting anti-competition legislation in the coming sessions. We will also engage in an effort to educate the new administration and legislators in Washington about the critical importance of local Internet choice and local innovation, both public and private, to the emergence of advanced, next-generation communications networks throughout the country. Please consider supporting these efforts financially if you support this agenda. The link to donate is here.
=>Fourth, work with us at the state level to develop coalitions of local organizations and build on existing coalitions with the tools we can help to provide, so that the community of public and private entities that share an interest in local Internet choice and our national broadband future is prepared to advocate at the state level as necessary. Experience suggests that few states are safe from the risk of bad, anti-broadband laws, and that a broad coalition of public and private interests is the single best means by which to protect local decision making and innovation in broadband. We may also have the opportunity to begin to roll back some of the existing state barriers.
We hope to see you in Minneapolis in October and in Dallas in May, and we welcome the opportunity to plan with you for events and advocacy in your state.
The CLIC Team