Wally Bowen, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN), will discuss “Bringing Down Barriers to Broadband” on April 9 at the National Conference on Media Reform in Boston.
His presentation is part of a panel discussion that includes former FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, now head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), and Angela Kronenberg, wireline legal advisor to FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.
The panel coincides with major policy debates in Washington and in state capitals over how to ensure affordable broadband access in rural communities and low-income, underserved neighborhoods. On March 28, the N.C. House of Representatives passed a controversial bill to discourage local governments from building and operating broadband networks.
In Washington, the FCC plans to shift more than $11 billion in telephone subscriber fees from the Universal Service Fund to a new Connect America Fund (CAF) to boost rural broadband deployment. Under the current proposal, however, local broadband networks like ERC Broadband, Balsam West, MAIN, and PANGAEA would not be eligible for CAF support.
In a March 2 filing with the FCC, Bowen was joined by other community broadband advocates in arguing that locally-owned networks should be allowed to compete for CAF subsidies because they create local jobs, are more responsive to local needs, and will be better custodians of CAF investments over the long-term.
The FCC is currently taking public comment on its Universal Service Fund reform proposal through April 18. MAIN is a member of the Rural Broadband Policy Group which plans to file. For more information, visit the MAIN homepage at http://www.main.nc.us. END