NPR’s Marketplace looks at broadband with Chris Mitchell at Institute for Local Self Reliance

You know broadband is bubbling up as a real solution when you hear about it on Public Radio. Today Marketplace featured Minnesota’s own Chris Mitchell talking about what it would take to get everyone online in light of the call to stay home to defend against COVID-19.

Chris mentions that people are signing up for connections in record numbers and providers need to find a way to meet those needs to help keep them at home…

Yes, that appears to be the case. I think this is even more important, because many ISPs — from the biggest companies to small, local companies — are finding ways of doing 60-day or 90-day free periods for low-income families to get signed up. I think that’s really important for families that right now might be having to leave their home in order to go to a community Wi-Fi spot. We don’t want people to leave the home unless it’s essential, so if we can get people connected in the home, that would be the ideal situation.

But they also talk about communities without broadband – how can we get broadband to communities faster? Chris answers…

One of the things we definitely need to do is to let communities deal with this in their own ways. There are many states that currently limit the ability of local governments to build their own networks. We really need to see those limits go away so that communities are free to expand internet access as rapidly as they can.

And recommends that in the mid-term states can streamline the process by getting rid of policies that slow it down…

The first is that the states themselves could change the laws. There are 19 states that limit local authority to build networks, partner with local companies, and they could decide tomorrow to get rid of those limitations. The other option would be for the federal government to strike them down in some manner. Congress could do that directly, or it could condition aid of certain kinds to those states to say, “If you’re going to limit broadband investment in your state, then we’re not going to give you federal dollars to expand the networks.” This is something that really gets to me, because we’ve spent billions of dollars on networks that are obsolete, and in fact, we still are through the remainder of 2020 writing checks to big companies that are delivering very slow DSL that does not qualify as broadband. Those big companies have all had their shot, and it’s time to have an all-hands-on-deck approach to expanding internet access.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, Policy, Vendors and tagged 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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