Build Broadband Better with CWA

Background

CWA's Solutions to Build Broadband Better (Local, State, Federal):

State FY23 Budget Priorities

New York, Connecticut, and other states throughout the Northeast are looking at billions of dollars in funding for broadband. However, without any labor protections, this money could go to low-road contractors, often from out of state, who rush through jobs and compromise both worker safety and the quality of the networks.

Strong labor standards that protect workers and promote good jobs are a vital piece of expanding broadband access throughout New York. Public money should also prioritize fiber-based project to make sure all New Yorkers get the highest quality internet access. 

We're calling on our State Legislators to commit to:

  1. Strong labor standards that protect workers and promote good jobs with high-road employers. In order to cut costs, providers increasingly rely on a multilayered structure of subcontractors that lack accountability to the public and to their employees. These contractors often are non-union, lack adequate safety training, have very high turnover, and undermine the wages and standards established by union-represented telecom employees through collective bargaining agreements. The result is a disturbing record of accidents that cause damage to utilities, public property, and homes while presenting serious risks to worker and public safety. The State must require strong labor standards to protect workers and customers.
  2. Prequalification provisions. To mitigate risk of failed projects, the State should require that companies who receive public dollars for broadband demonstrate, in advance of receiving an award, their capacity to deliver the promised deployment and service. This should be done through submission of information on the company's existing subscriber revenues, its financial statements, and other evidence of its ability to successfully build, operate, and maintain a viable broadband network.
  3. Fiber preference to ensure that public dollars for broadband go to fiber-to-the-premise projects whenever and wherever possible. Fiber is “future proof” because it can scale to meet increased network demands and it requires much less maintenance and fewer upgrades. By comparison, cable service and wireless service do not deliver the same symmetrical speeds or dedicated bandwidth to each household or business. Nothing matches fiber for overall capability.

You can help! Take action by sending an email to legislators urging them to attach strong labor standards to any public money for broadband work: New York | Connecticut

Materials for New York: Workplace Flyer | Memo of Support | Fact Sheet for Legislators

Federal Broadband Priorities

Today, voice and data over broadband have become dominant forms of communication, but there is no legislated universal service requirement in place. Policymakers have assumed that competition would spur communications companies to deploy broadband widely and give customers not just one but competing choices. Competition has failed to deliver universal, affordable access, and today CWA is advocating for federal funding to close the Digital Divide by subsidizing deployment of broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved areas, with strong accountability requirements attached to that funding, including labor standards.

CWA is also advancing common-sense legislation at the state level to regulate broadband under public utility commission authority so our communities aren’t left without recourse when broadband providers fail to deliver promised service.

Understanding the Challenges Around Municipal Broadband

Municipal or public broadband can mean a lot of things.  By one count, there are 331 municipal broadband networks in the US of various types including just for businesses and wholesale dark fiber, while another source identifies 63 municipal networks that provide fiber-to-the-home to most residents. Most municipally-owned and -operated networks are in places with municipally-owned and operated electric utilities, in small cities or towns, and approximately 30% serve business customers only. There are only a small number of solid success stories, while most of these ventures have resulted in failure and squandered public dollars. 

We think there needs to be a case-by-case approach to determine whether municipal broadband makes sense.

  • Cost: How much does it cost for a municipality to take on build out? Where will the capital funds come from?

  • Workforce: Who will build it? Who will operate it? Where will the workforce come from?

  • Consumers: Who will use the service?

  • Community: Is this the right solution for this particular community?

  • Labor Protections: Depends on local, state or federal. 

  • Incumbent Workforce Perspective: What is the perspective of the workforce in the area?

CWA's Model Labor Standards for State Level Broadband Policies

The best way to ensure publicly-funded broadband deployment supports good jobs and high-quality work is to give preference to high-road employers. Under this approach, there would be points awarded to applicants who commit to:

  • Locally-based workforce that supports job pipelines for traditionally marginalized

  • communities;

  • Appropriate safety training and safety practices;

  • Professional certifications and/or in-house training to ensure that deployment is done at a high standard;

  • No recent violations of labor law.

CWA’s State-Level Regulatory Bill: The Broadband Resiliency, Public Safety and Quality Act

Information About The Affordable Connectivity Program

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has launched the Affordable Connectivity Program, a temporary service to help make Internet service more affordable. We wanted to make sure you knew about this new federal benefit program that can help families and households in your area stay connected.

The Affordable Connectivity Program provides:

  • Up to $50/month discount for broadband service;

  • Up to $75/month discount for households on qualifying Tribal lands; and

  • A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet purchased through a participating provider if the household contributes more than $10 but less than $50 toward the purchase price.

The Affordable Connectivity Program is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.

>>Materials About the Affordable Connectivity Program

Flyer in English and Spanish for constituents.

Check out www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit for a Consumer FAQ and other program resources. Please help spread the word about this important program!