Communications Workers of America Launches Multi-State Effort to Regulate Broadband, Drives Support for Senate Bill 5117 in New York

For Immediate Release: Monday, April 12, 2021
Media Contact: Zoe PiSierra, [email protected], 603.339.0042

Communications Workers of America Launches Multi-State Effort to Regulate Broadband, Drives Support for Senate Bill 5117 in New York

NEW YORK - Today, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) launched an ambitious multi-state effort to pass state legislation that would establish public utility commission oversight of broadband in public safety, network resiliency and consumer protection. Legislation has already been introduced in New York, and CWA is in active conversations with policymakers in state houses across the country about its model bill.

In New York, CWA is spearheading the effort to pass Senate Bill 5117, the New York Broadband Resiliency, Public Safety and Quality Act. The bill would authorize the New York Public Service Commission to exercise oversight, promulgate rules and regulations, and conduct evaluations regarding the resiliency, public safety, and quality of broadband and VoIP service.

“Through regulation, we can make sure that our communities have the essential communications services we need for now and for the future,” said Dennis Trainor Vice President of CWA District 1 which covers the Northeast. “The telecom industry sold legislators on the idea that deregulation was the answer to every problem. It wasn't, and it has made it much more difficult for rural and low income families to obtain high speed internet service.”

CWA’s broadband initiative comes amid President Biden's recently introduced American Jobs Plan infrastructure package, which contains $100 billion for broadband and aims to provide universal broadband coverage and create good jobs. CWA’s state legislative initiative complements Biden’s plan by ensuring that there will be public oversight over this critical infrastructure deployment.

“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. “The past three decades of industry-driven deregulation have failed us. 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.”

The pandemic has deepened the digital divide and exposed the failures of deregulation as millions of Americans depended on the internet to work, go to school and receive health care services. CWA’s efforts in New York and across the country are aimed at closing this gap and ensuring access for all Americans. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to rely on internet access more than ever before, from ordering groceries to attending school, work, and doctors appointments online,” said Senator Sean Ryan from New York’s 60th District who is lead sponsor of S.5117. “We need to ensure all New Yorkers have high-quality, affordable access to broadband. We are happy to report that the inclusion of the Comprehensive Broadband Connectivity Act in the NY state budget is a step in the right direction. This will allow us to collect data on the quality and cost of broadband service across the state to identify where broadband disparities are and why they exist.”

“The next step is ensuring that the public service commission exercises full oversight of broadband to ensure network resiliency, public safety and consumer protection,” Senator Ryan added. “That is why I am proud to be the lead sponsor of this legislation that will further help New York State to eliminate the digital divide." 

Gigi Sohn, who served as a counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and is currently a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and a Benton Foundation Senior Fellow, joined CWA at a press briefing announcing the broadband regulation initiative.

“States have always had a vital role to play in overseeing our communications networks and ensuring that those networks are operated in the public interest - it's codified in the Communications Act of 1934,” said Sohn. “Unfortunately, many states abdicated that responsibility in the early part of the millennium at the behest of incumbent broadband providers. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has made abundantly clear that broadband is essential infrastructure, it's time for states to take back that authority. I wholeheartedly support CWA’s initiative to convince states to reassert their authority over broadband and Voice over IP services.”

“With or without federal oversight, at a minimum, states must be able to protect consumers, ensure that networks can withstand ever increasing natural disasters and other threats to public safety, and collect data about broadband pricing, deployment, adoption and network resiliency,” Sohn added.

A recording of today’s press briefing is available upon request.

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About CWA: The Communications Workers of America represents working people in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, health care, public service and education, and manufacturing.

cwa-union.org @cwaunion

 

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