Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Public Broadband-- Will Michigan Lead The Way For America?


Blue America endorsed Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed for many reasons and he reconfirmed our faith in him this week with a stunning and common-sense new policy proposal to create a state-level public internet service provider for Michigan, similar to the proposal state Rep Kaniela Ing has proposed for Hawaii and is running on in his race for Congress.

El-Sayed is eager to build on the recent successes of municipal broadband networks and his "MiFi" proposal would facilitate partnerships between state and local government to build infrastructure and provide access to affordable and high-quality internet for all Michiganders.

He pointed out in an e-mail to Michigan voters yesterday that "1.2 million Michiganders, both urban and rural, currently lack high-speed internet access and live in areas that the major corporate ISPs deem not profitable enough to service with broadband. MiFi will deliver broadband access to those areas, and introduce real competition to an industry that has been dominated by de facto monopolies. Households that choose public broadband will also benefit from a provider that will enforce net neutrality, and won’t sell their personal data for profit. "We are,' he said 'so excited about this proposal to make internet faster, cheaper, and available to everybody!'"
Abdul's full policy proposal, which you can read here, outlines his plan to:

1- Implement net neutrality through an executive order or by supporting legislation to prohibit network discrimination.
2- Establish the Michigan Internet Office (MIO) to coordinate and manage state investments in broadband projects, secure funding for broadband initiatives, and oversee mapping and planning processes related to internet access. The MIO will also administer the public ISP. All communities that establish networks through a public-public partnership will have the option to provide their own retail service. The MIO-run ISP will only serve communities that opt to have the state provide service instead. This option for local control is important in Michigan, where the state has in recent years stripped local governments of power through the emergency manager law, lack of revenue-sharing, and more.
3- Create a commission to develop a broadband access plan that outlines how we can both fully connect Michigan through municipally-owned and community-owned broadband networks and contain costs by leveraging public resources (ex. partnering with locally-owned utility companies, developing regional collaborations, etc.)
4- Develop publicly-owned broadband networks at the state and local levels. First, through the MIO, the El-Sayed Administration will issue an RFP to solicit local governments interested in either building or expanding community-owned fiber networks, with priority given to underserved and unserved communities. All accepted localities will then partner with the state (again through the MIO) to draft plans to build and finance these networks. Second, the Administration will establish a state-owned ISP managed by the Michigan Internet Office. The ISP will provide retail service for partners that install broadband infrastructure, but do not have the capacity or desire to provide retail service.
5- Invest in fiber-to-the-home networks and fiber optic technology by mandating that at least 75 percent of all new broadband infrastructure financed by the state are fiber networks and require that all cable laid as part of our proposed public-public partnerships be fiber optic cable, and that all such fiber be open access-- meaning that all competitors, public or private, can use the lines to provide service.
6- Sponsor legislation that encourages public provision of broadband. Michigan is one of 20 states with laws that restrict the development and expansion of publicly-owned broadband networks. The El-Sayed Administration will lobby to change these laws and provide a level-playing field for all internet providers.

Alex Shephard, writing about the proposal for the New Republic, dubbed it a public option for the internet. "American politicians of every stripe," he wrote yesterday, "have long bemoaned the lack of high speed internet access across the country. Despite being the center of technological innovation for the past 60 years, average internet speeds in the United States lag behind those in South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and a host of European Union countries. Outside of big cities, high-speed internet access is often unavailable, which slows economic development and affects education." This is especially true in rural areas. And this is serious problem of economic concentration and monopoly. The industry "is highly concentrated-- many areas only have one internet service provider-- meaning that companies are not competing for customers in ways that push them to expand their networks. These companies have not, moreover, been incentivized by the federal government to expand their networks." Señor Trumpanzee signed an executive order that "ostensibly aimed to make it easier for internet companies to connect rural communities, but didn’t actually accomplish much of anything." Abdul El-Sayed is far better.
Without shareholders or the profit motive, research suggests that this public internet would result in lower costs for consumers. El-Sayed’s plan, moreover, would create a series of smaller internet companies-- rather than a large state monopoly-- so there is little reason to believe that another behemoth, which would in turn create costs to support its expansive overhead, would be created.

El-Sayed’s plan doesn’t just focus on rural communities-- although it’s likely they would benefit the most from such a plan. In Michigan, 40 percent of urban residents don’t have access to high-speed internet and the plan outlined on Monday includes funding to expand internet access in cities, where many last-mile connections have not been made.

Similar plans have worked in other places, albeit on a smaller scale. Chattanooga built its own municipal broadband service and subsequently experienced an economic boom. Unemployment dropped, wages grew, and manufacturers-- notably Volkswagen-- moved to the city. “We know that the wage rise is linked to internet jobs and particularly the technology sector,” the city’s mayor told The Tennessean in 2016.

“The internet is the highway of the 21st century,” El-Sayed said in a statement. “But too few have access because internet service monopolies have held universal internet hostage to their own profits. MI-Fi is our solution; publicly-owned broadband infrastructure can ensure that every household in rural and urban Michigan has the access they need to protect net neutrality in our state.”

Aside from being sensible, a public option for the internet has the added benefit of being politically beneficial for Democrats. Telecom companies have used their expanding market power to gouge consumers and provide subpar service for years. Running on providing better, cheaper internet access is also running against corporate concentration and monopoly power-- which is what congressional Democrats are aiming to do in 2018 in their “Better Deal.”
Paul Clements is running for Congress in southwest Michigan. He likes the idea-- a lot. "High speed internet is the telephone of the 21st century. Everyone needs it. In my discussions across the district this is a common demand from voters, and I've been saying for a long time that government needs to make sure everyone can get broadband service at a fair price. In Congress I will be happy to work with new Michigan Governor El-Sayed to help to implement his plan to break up monopoly providers and make public broadband available to everyone in Michigan."

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At 3:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some states may try this. It won't ever happen nationally. NN is dead nationally too.

Massive corporations profit from regional monopolies on internet and broadband and they'll pay billions in bribes to keep it that way. They can maximize profits (by ratfucking the little-man users) by ditching NN, so they have been bribing both parties (and placing $hills in key postings -- ajit pai) to ditch it.

The democraps will ALWAYS put their money far ahead of the people they supposedly represent.

Michigan may lead. Maybe a couple of others may try it. Eventually, the money will get what they want.

Nobody will get in the way as long as we keep electing democraps.

At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When will Democrats learn to not telegraph their proposals in the media? Rick "The Dick" Snyder is already making plans to overrule any such effort. He lives to screw mere humans for corporate cash!


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