The Louisiana Municipal Association is the latest organization to officially support the FCC's ability to restore local authority. The group represents 305 village, town, city, and parish members. Their Executive Board unanimously passed the resolution on July 30 and recently shared it with the FCC:
WHEREAS, the universal availability of affordable high speed Internet access for all citizens has been identified as a national priority; and
WHEREAS, community/municipal broadband networks provide an option for market competition, consumer choice, economic development, and universal, affordable Internet access; and
WHEREAS, historically, local governments have ensured access to essential services by banding together to provide those services that were not offered by the private sector at a reasonable and competitive cost. This involvement has included electrification, public libraries, and other important services; and
WHEREAS, local government leaders recognize that their economic health and survival depend on connecting their communities, and they understand that it takes both private and public investment to achieve this goal; and
WHEREAS, attempts have been made at the state level to limit or stop further local government deployment of municipal Internet services through legislation, which has the potential of reducing the ability of local government to provide important information and services to their citizens in a timely, efficient, and cost effective manner; and
WHEREAS, local governments, being closest to the people are the most accountable level of government and will be held responsible for any decisions they make; and
WHEREAS, the DC Circuit Court has determined that Section 706 of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 unambiguously grants authority to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to remove barriers that deter network infrastructure investment;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Executive Board of the Louisiana Municipal Association convened at its regular business meeting on July 30, 2014 does hereby unanimously support FCC efforts to ensure local governments are able to invest in essential Internet infrastructure, if they so choose, without state-imposed barriers to discourage such an approach.
In the LMA letter to Chairman Wheeler, Executive Director Ronnie C. Harris wrote:
Communities of every size across the State of Louisiana, as in other state in our nation, are facing overwhelming problems within this arena as they strive to bring advances in technology to their rural areas to keep up with our rapidly changing world.
Even though Louisiana is one of the states that impose restrictions on local authority, LUS Fiber in Lafayette provides fast, reliable, affordable services to an adoring public. In addition to helping shrink the digital divide, the network contributes significantly to economic development in the area. Within the past year alone, three additional tech companies have been drawn to Lafayette, bringing significant job growth.
Opponents of restoring local authority argue there are a number of reasons why tech companies have found Lafayette attractive. It is true that the community is well known for its rich culture, beautiful environment, and mild climate. Nevertheless, without LUS Fiber, those companies would be missing an integral tool for business.
If the FCC chooses to restore local authority in North Carolina and Tennessee under section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, perhaps other Louisiana communities will ultimately be able to benefit.
Read about LUS Fiber in our case study, Broadband At The Speed of Light: How Three Communities Built Next-Generation Networks. You can also hear Chris interview John St. Julian from Lafayette in Episode 19 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. They have a revealing discussion about local efforts to invest in a municipal networks and struggles the community had to overcome to realize its vision.