Monday, April 11, 2005

National Municipal Broadband Conference call report

I just got off a conference call hosted the Media Access Project, The Free Press, and Consumers Union. The Florida Municipal Electric Association also made a presentation. They released three very significant white papers which debunk the lies and disinformation spread by the incumbent telecom companies.

The mere existence of the conference call and the coalition that participated is part of mounting evidence that a strong pro-municipal organization with national reach is emerging and is working through well-respected national organizations. A strong network of grass-roots activists that shares strategies and "war stories" has emerged in parallel to this more institutional effort and are making the stands local groups take more effective.

The presentations were, at times, fiery. All the participants reflected a general distress with the way the incumbents have handled the conflict over municipal broadband and reflects a growing consensus among national advocates not known for radicalism (the Consumers Union?!) and conservative media like BusinessWeek and USAToday that the telecom providers, the BellSouths and Cox's of our country have simply failed to do the job they exist to do and are now lying to the public. Harsh words, I know, but when you find them echoed by USAToday and the Consumer's Union, it's hard to dismiss as mere rhetoric.

There's something stirring in this country and it cuts across traditional political lines. At the national scale (evidenced by this call and recent coverage) and at the local level, where Lafayette Republicans lie down with the Democrats and the local Chamber of Commerce endorses the bond election, the lines are shifting on telecom issues. Where ideology collides with reality, reality wins and a realignment on telecom issues at least seems in process.

But the immediate news was the white papers. They look absolutely stellar and gather in one place a lot of the information you otherwise have to dig for. I'll sit down and scrutinize them and, over the next few days, report on what they contain and the implications for our fight here. But there is no reason for you to wait.

Here's access to the papers:

Telco Lies and the Truth About Municipal Broadband Networks (pdf)
Focuses on case studies of the cities that have instituted municipal networks and does a point by point rebuttal of the lies the Teleco's have repeated. Includes Tacoma, Marrieta and all the nonsense we saw bandied about at the "academic broadband conference" here in Lafayette early in the fight.
Connecting People: The Truth About Municipal Broadband (pdf)
Focuses on rebutting the more general arguments against municipal networks, the ones repeated time and again across the country. A flying overview: municipal networks increase competition, lower prices, and increase the range of services available. They foster telecom sector investment that the current incumbents are successfully squeezing out of the market (think Eatel). The supposed municipal "subsidies" come nowhere near matching the huge federal, state, and, municipal advantages enjoyed by the incumbents (think Cingular's tax forgiveness). And more...

Broadband and Economic Development: A Municipal Case Study from Florida (pdf)
This one is an economic analysis of economic growth in a Florida county, Lake County, following the introduction of a municipal fiber network. It contrasts with the lack of development in counties that are matched on other economic and demographic factors. Good stuff but forbiddingly technical in places.

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