CWA recently launched initiatives in state legislatures across the country aimed at greater public oversight of broadband providers. The goal is to ensure public safety and network resilience while protecting consumers and closing the digital divide. CWA's efforts complement the Biden administration's American Jobs Plan, which includes $100 billion for expanding broadband coverage and creating good jobs in the industry.
"President Biden has made a powerful case for recognizing that broadband is a critical part of America's 21st-century infrastructure and for considering its effect on the lives of working people," said CWA President Chris Shelton at an event marking the new initiative. "Working people need robust telecommunications services that support good jobs and full access to health care resources, public services, and educational opportunities. Instead, we have been left with deteriorating telephone networks and a failure to deliver next generation services to rural and low income areas."
CWA District 7 Vice President Brenda Roberts added, "Telecom industry executives said deregulation was necessary for competition and that competition would magically fix everything. It hasn't, and the public needs watch dogs we can work with to ensure this essential service is there for our communities today and into the future. Without regulation, the goal of universal broadband service is just a nice dream."
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how critical broadband is to the nation's health and education systems, and how underserved many rural and urban communities are. CWA Local 7777 Executive Board Member Sandra Parker Murray, who has been working with the Coloradans for Better Internet Coalition, explained, "As school buildings closed during the pandemic, students who didn't have reliable broadband were cut off from their education entirely ... Hot spots have helped some families get by, but they are not a sustainable solution."
Natural disasters have also alerted the public to the need for more oversight. CWA Local 9408 member Stan Santos, who serves as legislative chair of CWA's Coastal Valley Council, said, "California's wildfires have shown how the companies have cut corners leaving communications networks vulnerable when they are most needed—when disaster strikes."
Check out more information about the initiative and CWA's model legislation, known as the Broadband Resiliency, Public Safety and Quality Act here.