by Chris Witteman and Tracy Rosenberg. Originally published at 48 Hills.
Fourteen months of COVID quarantine made one thing clear: we need our broadband.
It used to be only media activists who insisted that Internet access was an essential service; now it’s accepted wisdom.
Unfortunately, the last year has also made clear that the current system is broken. Pictures of kids doing homework in parking lots because they have no broadband at home highlight the problem: The market has failed to deliver adequate broadband because there is no market.
High-speed broadband in most areas is available only from the monopoly cable company, occasionally from the duopoly phone company. It’s overpriced, unreliable, and – even based on the carriers’ overstated reporting — simply not available to millions of Californians – certainly not at the bandwidth needed for today’s applications.
People know this is so, despite industry propaganda to the contrary.
Californians need fast, modern Internet. Gov Newsom has responded with a budget that allots $7 billion — from a mix of state surplus dollars and federal rescue money – to actually build public broadband infrastructure rather than just talk about it or continue to throw money at the incumbents.
Local work to pass Internet Choice ordinances (in San Francisco in 2016 and in Oakland in 2021) have culminated in a new proposed FCC order (for the whole country!) to prohibit exclusive marketing agreements between property owners/managers and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that limit or restrict choices for people residing in apartments.
A coalition of Internet freedom groups, economic justice organizations and alternative ISP’s is working together to spread Internet Choice legislation beyond San Francisco.
Media Alliance is an anchor for the Oakland Internet Choice Coalition which includes the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Greenlining Institute, The Utility Reform Network, Color of Change, MediaJustice, Oakland Tenants Union and alternative ISPs MonkeyBrains, Sonic, Paxio and People’s Open Internet.
Oakland residents shared the stories of their personal experience; a broad coalition of advocates, civil society organizations, and local internet service providers (ISPs) lifted their voices; and now the Oakland City Council has unanimously passed Oakland’s Communications Service Provider Choice Ordinance. The newly minted law frees Oakland renters from being constrained to their landlord’s preferred ISP by prohibiting owners of multiple occupancy buildings from interfering with an occupant’s ability to receive service from the communications provider of their choice.
Renters in Oakland’s apartment buildings now have more control over their choice of internet service provider, a choice that San Francisco renters have had since 2016 and one that the Federal Communications Commission is currently addressing.
The Internet Choice Ordinance was unanimously approved by the Oakland City Council in October and went into effect for tenants in January. It broadens ISP options for renters in buildings with four or more residences by prohibiting landlords from restricting tenants to a single provider.
Net neutrality is the principle that the company that your Internet Service Provider does not get to control what you do on the Internet, and that an Internet user should be able to access all content and applications equally, without discrimination by the ISP.* This applies to everyone, including emergency first responders, teachers and students, city administrators, doctors and patients, and small businesses and their customers.
When the federal government eliminated net neutrality protections, California passed its own net neutrality legislation.
Media Alliance joined an amici (friend of the court brief) filed in the case of Open Technology Foundation vs David Pack (and the Trump Administration). Trump appointee Pack disbanded the entire board of OTF which creates and maintains encrypted software tools like Signal and Lets Encrypt, an open source website security protocol.
In an early win, the board was recently temporarily reinstated, overturning an earlier decision on appeal, but the lawsuit is still winding its way through the courts for a final determination.