FCC Commissioner O’Rielly has recently made some claims regarding risks to the First Amendment that he sees as arising from community and municipal broadband efforts. The Commissioner makes clear his unhappiness with municipal broadband efforts generally, but particularly calls out what he considers to be First Amendment concerns that arise from community provision of communication services.
As proponents of local internet choice and community-based decision-making, we note simply that one of the many driving public policy considerations that leads to community broadband efforts is the recognition by local governments that the broadband internet is increasingly the platform on which America’s democracy lives and on which civic discourse thrives. Without affordable, robust access to the broadband internet, Americans are cut off from the critical policy and political debates of their local communities and of the nation.
Across America, many localities have stepped in where the private sector has failed to provide the abundant and affordable connectivity that their communities need. In so doing, these localities have increased, not decreased, the number and variety of voices participating in our national democratic discourse. The FCC should appreciate and applaud the deep commitment of America’s localities to equity and opportunity with respect to speech and civic discourse.
–Joanne Hovis (CLIC CEO) and Jim Baller (CLIC President)