How to build momentum for broadband-friendly legislation – public relations

Government Technology recently ran an article on proactive approaches to anti-muni broadband legislation. They are talking specifically about legislation in Missouri – but recognize the challenge to broadband legislation anywhere…

For years, incumbent telecom and cable companies trying to preserve their anti-competition fiefdoms have viewed state legislatures as the best hunting grounds. Given that few constituents know their legislators or the issues they tackle, incumbents need only influence two or three busloads of representatives in any statehouse.

But those who care about broadband — including local elected leaders, administrators, public utility managers, community stakeholders and others — are stepping up their advocacy game in response to recent legislative losses. Despite a big win for community broadband forces in Virginia, Tennessee appears to be headed to a Pyrrhic victory, North Carolina only offers a sliver hope and supporters were defeated in Alabama.

So what does Gov Tech suggest? PR…

There are several aspects to public relations, with media relations being a key element. In February, Virginia’s broadband stakeholders and advocates demonstrated effective media relations and why it’s important. …

“Media coverage of the municipal broadband issues has been fantastic,” Arbogast said. “I did lots of interviews after the bill came out. I also called and emailed state legislators, local officials, congressman, everybody I could think of to get their support.”

And a 12month PR plan…

PR is broadly defined as actions taken to influence a group of people with whom you do business. State legislatures influence cities’ ability to access money, resources and permissions. Subsequently, design a PR plan with the goal of influencing legislators’ hearts and minds regarding community broadband.

They call out Minnesota Broadband Coalition’s Day on the Hill as an example…

Minnesota jurisdictions have to pass a referendum in order to be allowed to build their own networks, which is a surmountable requirement. But to avoid the type of unpleasantness that Virginia endured, the Minnesota Broadband Coalition proactively hosted a “Minnesota Broadband on the Hill Day.” Over 80 community broadband planners and stakeholders met with 40 state legislators for a day of panels, presentations and tours in the statehouse. This type of direct engagement that’s done on a regular basis helps communities maintain their place at the table.

This entry was posted in Building Broadband Tools, MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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