Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Susan Crawford for FCC chairman

Occasionally, very occasionally, something appears on the horizon at the federal level that would actually make a big difference to advocates of local broadband. The emerging grass-roots advocacy of Susan Crawford for the chair of the FCC is one such event. An op ed in the Washington Post lays out the case for Crawford and along the way says:
Crawford would preempt the unfair and uncompetitive state laws that infringe on the rights of local communities to expand broadband access. To support local efforts to build out fiber-optic networks, she proposes creating an infrastructure bank that would provide long-term, low-interest financing.
That's huge. The FCC could assert its control under a number of federal laws to simply outlaw state laws in that ban or anti-competively restrict community-owned telecommunications networks. Their mandate is very broad. What is lacking is the political will. Susan Crawford is the sort of person who has the will. She certainly has the background in internet activism, founded OneWebDay, served as President Obama's Special Assistant for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy, and co-chaired the FCC transition review team during the Obama transition. (See her short wikipedia bio for more.) If you're doubtful scan a few of her occasional blog entries. Oh, and she's written the book on the subject: Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age. (Public Library) That title alone should tell you that she sports the no-nonsense boldness needed for the job.

I'll be frank: She's ideal. The perfect mixture of intellectual background, civic activism, and consumer orientation. So ideal that many will say, regardless of her ties to the Obama administration, that she has no chance of being nominated. And, that if she were nominated, she'd have no chance of overcoming entrenched corporate objections to her Senatorial approval. That may be true. Elizabeth Warren's travails are illustrative: she was the ideal candidate for the job of the first head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; hell, she pretty much designed the agency. And even with administrative support and logic on her side she wasn't appointed. But on the other hand: Elizabeth Warren might be just the reason to support her candidacy. Elizabeth Warren's rejection was painful for the bought-and-paid-for senators. It made their true allegiances all too painfully obvious over an prolonged time and made her a hero to a national constituency. That in turn led her to an insurgent campaign for senator with huge funding from the national pro-consumer constituency that her long battle in Washington had built. Now she is a senator and she sits in the seat of power that had once rejected her. That's got to be disconcerting to the senators who dismissed her and will now have to deal with her intelligence and expertise on a daily basis.

Maybe trying, and failing, to get Susan Crawford appointed to head the FCC wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Synchronicity? While tweeting a link to this post I scanned Crawford's stream for an appropriate hashmark for her candidacy and found the following in a LSU Reville story she'd read and recommended:
In order for the FCC to achieve these new goals, telecommunications companies must look past their immediate shareholder returns and work toward improving the country or competition should be returned to the market in the form of municipal broadband providers, Internet access services that are funded by local governments. 
Lafayette’s LUS Fiber is a municipally owned broadband provider that provides ultra-fast speeds at competitive prices. Since the introduction of LUS Fiber, Lafayette has seen a surge in interest from technology-related companies and Cox Communications, one of the city’s main private providers, has slashed its rates for some across the city, according to USA Today.
She not only gets it; she stays on top of the discussion to the point finding good material in LSU's student newspaper?  Gee.

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