Broadband: Four Legislative Steps To Ensure Economic Growth


(Hi, Bleeding Heartland community! As the FCC is about to issue a long-awaited ruling on the regulation of high-speed internet, broadband expansion will be a critical issue for Iowa state legislators in the coming session. The following diary was originally posted at ProgressiveStates.org. Please leave any thoughts in the comments below!)


A middle-school student needs to do her homework: she needs the internet.


A small business owner needs to purchase supplies for his inventory: he needs the internet.


A recently laid-off head of a household needs to file for unemployment benefits: he needs the internet.


And they just don’t need the internet. They need high-speed internet, otherwise known as broadband.


Dial-up access may have been sufficient for a 20th-century economy. But as our nation becomes more and more reliant on the internet in everyday life, dial-up doesn’t allow a middle-school student to download museum files from her rural home in Arkansas, a small business owner to purchase needed supplies from a vendor, or a father who was just laid-off to apply easily for unemployment benefits to feed his family.


Still think that broadband is a luxury? Think again. Broadband is the infrastructure needed for our nation’s economic survival.

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A new glimpse of the old Leonard Boswell

Iowa Republicans love to bash Leonard Boswell as a “liberal,” but that label is laughable when you examine Boswell’s lifetime voting record in Congress. The Progressive Punch database shows that Boswell currently ranks as the 224th most progressive member of the House of Representatives (near the bottom of the Democratic caucus). Progressive Punch divides Congressional votes into 14 categories, and the highest ranking Bowell has in any category is 174th. In other words, Boswell is less progressive than the average House Democrat on just about any issue. On “crucial votes,” which are decided by a narrow margin in the House, Boswell has voted with progressives only about 65 percent of the time during his Congressional career. (Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack aren’t as liberal as you probably think they are either.)

Progressive Punch scores only take votes into account, but members of Congress can influence policies in other ways too. This week the Savetheinternet.com coalition sent out an action alert:

Seventy-four members of Congress have just signed an industry-drafted letter urging the FCC to abandon efforts to protect Net Neutrality and promote universal broadband access. By signing this letter, these members have sold you out to Comcast, Verizon and AT&T.

Click here to read the industry-drafted letter. The savetheinternet.com coalition annotated the letter with background countering many points of “misinformation.” All the House members who signed were Democrats, but Boswell is the only Iowa Democrat on the list. Major players in the telecommunications industry want to undermine the FCC’s authority, and the letter depicts that as needed to secure private investment in expanding broadband networks. Boswell may think he is merely helping his rural constituents get broadband access, but if corporations get their way on this matter, the likely outcome would be a framework allowing internet providers to charge content providers more to have their sites load.

Click here for more background on what net neutrality is and why some corporations want to undermine it. Excerpts:

Net Neutrality is the guiding principle that preserves the free and open Internet.

Net Neutrality means that Internet service providers may not discriminate between different kinds of content and applications online. It guarantees a level playing field for all Web sites and Internet technologies. […]

The nation’s largest telephone and cable companies — including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable — want to be Internet gatekeepers, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow and which won’t load at all.

They want to tax content providers to guarantee speedy delivery of their data. And they want to discriminate in favor of their own search engines, Internet phone services and streaming video — while slowing down or blocking services offered by their competitors.

These companies have a new vision for the Internet. Instead of a level playing field, they want to reserve express lanes for their own content and services — or those of big corporations that can afford the steep tolls — and leave the rest of us on a winding dirt road. […]

Net Neutrality has been part of the Internet since its inception. […] And non-discrimination provisions like Net Neutrality have governed the nation’s communications networks since the 1920s.

But as a consequence of a 2005 decision by the Federal Communications Commission, Net Neutrality — the foundation of the free and open Internet — was put in jeopardy. Now, cable and phone company lobbyists are pushing to block legislation that would reinstate Net Neutrality.

Writing Net Neutrality into law would preserve the freedoms we currently enjoy on the Internet. For all their talk about “deregulation,” the cable and phone giants don’t want real competition. They want special rules written in their favor.

According to the Savetheinternet coalition, Boswell has accepted $53,500 in campaign contributions from telecom companies or their lobbyists during his Congressional career. Please take a moment to contact Boswell at one of his offices or through his official website to urge him to support the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009 (H.R. 3458). You can also sign an online petition here.

UPDATE: At Iowa Independent, Adam Sullivan reports that in March, Boswell “held a dinner fundraiser hosted by Lyndon Boozer (a lobbyist for AT&T) and Roger Mott (a lobbyist for Verizon), and a breakfast fundraiser hosted by Louis Dupart (a lobbyist for Verizon).”

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