Localblogging

Portsmouth Council votes 7-0 to reverse support for ALPRs

At the July 11 meeting, the Portsmouth Town Council voted 7-0 to rescind their approval of the pilot program to place Automated License Plate Readers at the approaches to the Mt. Hope Bridge.

The testimony of Portsmouth residents at the meeting--and the many calls, e-mails, and letters the Council received--citing privacy concerns and expressing doubt about the claims these cameras would be effective at suicide prevention led the councilors to reconsider their position.

One factor had to be the analysis the RI ACLU delivered prior to the meeting highlighting the civil liberties and governance concerns. You can read it here.

Thanks to the many folx who turned out, wrote in, and spoke up. And thanks to the members of the Portsmouth Town Council, who were willing to reconsider this decision, listen to the concerns of residents, and do the right thing.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, ALPR

Followup for Portsmouth Town Council on license plate readers at Mt. Hope Bridge

Members of the Council:

Following up on my prior letter to the Council, I'm very grateful for the initial response I've received and the tentative approval to place this item on the agenda at the July 11 meeting for reconsideration. As backup for that discussion, I'm attaching a PDF of the minutes of the Bristol Town Council meeting of May 11 when the proposal was discussed there as well as the Bristol PD policy on ALPR.

It is significant to note that Bristol Town Council agenda item was not for "consideration" but rather for "presentation," and their action was to "receive and file." So Portsmouth may have taken action based on an assumption about what Bristol had done which may not be accurate: this was not a robust hearing about the facts, but a presentation from the PD.

Getting to the policy, I have annotated the enclosed document to highlight differences, as well as points that bear further scrutiny.

There is a significant difference in the usage policy (Section II of the PD policy document) with Bristol adding a paragraph specifying broader uses (including homeland security, which renders the exclusion of ICE and CBP moot.) It is important to note that Portsmouth residents driving over the bridge would necessarily be subject to this, even if Portsmouth PD policy differs.

Another key difference is government oversight. In Section IV, which bears on acquisition of ALPR or expansion of scope, the Bristol PD requires an "advertised public hearing," while the Portsmouth PD only requires a "public presentation to the Town Council." A presentation is not a hearing. Democratically elected officials exercising oversight is critical, and while I trust both the Council and the Portsmouth PD, there is no substitute for public input.

Section V, Portsmouth adds "vehicles associated with criminal investigations" to the list of ALPR uses. Odd for something being justified for suicide prevention. It's almost as if suicide prevention is a pretext for inserting these cameras into our community.

This is a minor but telling nit: Section V (E) shows that Portsmouth PD simply started with a thoroughgoing copy of the Bristol PD policy, since it includes the transposition of CPB [sic] for CBP.

And another nit: Section VI (G). On a purely technical note, the phrase used here is "Chief of Police or his designee." Since this is a policy theoretically meant to survive for some duration, would it not be more appropriate to say "their" designee.

Section VI(G)5 specifies multiple locally created hot lists to be loaded into the system for scanning: SIU, Detectives, Traffic, and All Department. If this is really for suicide prevention, what are all these hot lists for?

In the Bristol backup, Flock justified their single-source contractor status by saying that they are the only company with the capabilities to "analyze vehicle license plate, state recognition, vehicle color, vehicle type, vehicle make and objects (roof rack, unique hubcap, etc.) based on image analytics." Again, this belies the label "ALPR" for these cameras; they capture much, much more than license plates. The words we use to describe things matter, and ALPR conceals more than it reveals about what these cameras do.

And the inclusion of the discussion of single source raises questions about the acquisition process: If Portsmouth PD were going to pay for these cameras, wouldn't they have to go out to bid? Is running a "free" pilot program just a way to bypass the bidding process? Who pays to take the cameras down at the end of the "pilot?" Or does Flock expect that this will just roll over into a yearly $5,000 subscription?

And speaking of "free," given that the cameras require maintaining local "hit lists" (including a requirement for weekly audits of lists) and the policy specifies a mandatory quarterly data audit, as well as the creation of a "transparency portal" updated quarterly, that means there is a non-zero staff time cost, which I assume was not factored into the decision.

I thank the Council for your time and consideration, and for all you do for our town.

Best regards.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, civil liberties, ALPR

Help Portsmouth students travel to DC for President's Environmental Award

 

Portsmouth, RI – A group of Portsmouth students have been awarded The President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA), a prestigious national award which recognizes outstanding environmental stewardship projects developed by K-12 youth. Their winning project is the establishment of the Portsmouth AgInnovation Farm, a student-driven, community farm program where kids learn about sustainable agriculture with hands-on problem-solving experiences. Since 1971, the President of the United States has joined with EPA to recognize young people for protecting our nation's air, water, land, and ecology.

The AgInnovation Farm program is a partnership with Portsmouth Middle School and ERICD and is located at Cloverbud Ranch. AgInnovation student, Anabella Barber, said, “AgInnovation is an amazing learning environment. What makes it appealing is that everyone has the option to choose what activity they want to take part in on the farm. Whether it’s helping with irrigation, building new tables for the schoolhouse, or just hanging out with the chickens, everyone is participating in something they truly enjoy.”

The students are trying to make their way to Washington D.C. for the EPA’s award ceremony on August 4 to accept the award. The Grand Hyatt has graciously offered a reduced lodging rate and the students have elected to take the train to DC to reduce costs. A fundraising goal of $5,000 has been set to cover transport and lodging. AgInnovation parent, Monica DeAngelis said, “Some of our student winners have never been to Washington, DC, so in addition to attending the award ceremony, they also hope to take in some of the sights and sounds of the city.” She added, “This award is a huge deal, not only for the kids, but for the area; we want the students to have the opportunity to represent our community at the ceremony.” 

The students being recognized are Tatum Brennan, Maggie Mullen, Brooke O’Brien, Noah Sidewand, Owen Sidewand, Anabella Barber, Rowen Willet, Stella McInerney, Aurelius Brockman, Elle McFadden, Elizabeth Lantz, Fiona Sarro, Olivia Purdy, Olivia Almilli, and Cameron Davis.

For more information and to support the students, please visit www.easternriconservation.org/award. Company sponsorship opportunities are available, please contact Sara Churgin at schurgin.ericd@gmail.com or 401-934-0842.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, PSD

Request to Portsmouth Town Council to reconsider license plate readers at Mt. Hope Bridge

Members of the Council:
I write to ask you to reconsider your approval, at your last meeting, of Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR) at the approaches to the Mount Hope Bridge. While the goal of suicide prevention is laudable, recording and searching 450,000 license plates each month is a serious intrusion into the privacy of everyday Rhode Islanders and is out of proportion to the number of lives such an action would purportedly save.

The solution to preventing jumpers is nets, not surveillance. The inclusion in the recently approved state budget of funding to begin the process of adding suicide barriers to the state's bridges makes adding ALPRs particularly ill-timed and redundant. Using this as a justification no longer passes the test of "least restrictive means" test for objectives at odds with Constitutional rights to privacy. For this reason alone, I urge the Council to abandon this project.

Nor does it seem that the vendor, Flock Safety, considers suicide prevention to be part of their core mission. Their web site leads with "Reduce crime in your community by up to 70%" and "Protect against property crime, violent crime, stolen vehicles, and more." The one mention of suicide prevention is an unattributed anecdote about a single case in Tega Cay, SC. No news articles could be found in a web search to substantiate this solitary claim. If this really was a featured benefit of the system, one would expect there to be more robust support; a general web search turned up no news stories in which ALPR were mentioned in preventing suicides. The use of this technology appears to be a solution in search of a problem at best, and at worst, a pretext by which to insert this vendor's cameras into our community.

Flock's web site claims that their cameras "capture objective evidence, make it actionable with machine learning." As someone familiar with ML, I can categorically state that all such systems are inherently imperfect -- that's the *nature* of machine learning. ML systems use weighted probabilities to tune their recognition, and they are susceptible to bias introduced by the sample sets used to train them. The point is that such systems can not, by their essential nature, be trusted not to produce false positives. The consequences of a police intervention that goes wrong based on an erroneous hit are clearly a foreseeable risk.

Turning to the Portsmouth PD policy included in the backup for the meeting, section III(F) articulates that the ALPR hits may include (but are not limited to) "stolen car, wanted person, missing person, domestic violation protective order or terrorist-related activity." If the stated objective of this deployment is suicide prevention, where is that in the list?

In section V(B) the policy states that ALPR will not be used to record identifying features of a vehicle like color, bumper stickers, or unique details "unless for a purpose authorized under subsection (a)" -- but section A casts a very wide net indeed, including vehicles associated with wanted, missing, or endangered persons, stolen vehicles, vehicles that return an NCIC match, and vehicles associated with criminal investigations. So any vehicle that falls into one of those categories will have more than its plate recorded.

And the Flock FAQ, included in backup, is emphatic on what will be captured (page 2, paragraph 3): "The Falcon captures the make, vehicle type, color, license plate (full, partial, missing), state of the license plate, and the unique features of the vehicle, including damage and after-market alterations." Captured and stored for a month and searchable. This should make anyone driving over the Mount Hope Bridge uncomfortable.

Policy section V(B) makes a point of saying that the number of times a vehicle travels past the camera will not be tracked -- but, again, the exception in V(C) says that "suicide prevention" would make tracking allowable. Is that only in the case of an existing BOLO, or is this a prospective machine-learning sifting through the data to find multiple crossings within a time span? Without clarification, this is unacceptably muddy. Students attending Roger Williams University who live in Portsmouth will undoubtedly be erroneously flagged up by the system, which will both waste PD time and send a very unwelcome message.

In section V(H), the policy states that Flock will "ensure proper maintenance and security of data stored in their data towers." As a career IT professional, I have no idea what a "data tower" is. Furthermore, in the Flock Safety FAQ included in the backup, on page 3 paragraph 7, it states that the footage is "stored in the cloud." These two statements are irreconcilable. Either it is Flock's data center or it is not. If it is not, then who is Flock's cloud service provider? Does Flock have control over those servers? What are the physical security provisions at the cloud provider's data center? These are questions that need to be answered about any storage of sensitive data.

In the section on procedure, IV(F), "F Officers will not take any police action that restricts the freedom of any individual based solely on an ALPR alert unless it has been validated." It's not clear from context what the standard for "validation" is here.

The section continues, "Officers are reminded that they need to have reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause to make an enforcement stop of any vehicle...[...]...Officers should attempt to visually match the driver or should have another legal basis for making the stop." I am very uncomfortable with the use of the word "should" here; the Fourth Amendment requires a "must." If you have not committed a crime in an officer's presence or the officer has no reasonable and articulable suspicion to justify such action, there *must* be no seizure. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 US 1(1968)5(b).

For these reasons, which I am happy to reiterate in person should you choose to reconsider this at a future meeting, I respectfully request that the Council rescind their approval.

Thank you for your time and consideration, and for all you do for our Town.

Best regards.

Edited 2:53pm 6/20/22 to correct the number of cars crossing the bridge each month; the math mistake was mine.

Edit 6/25. Followup here: http://harddeadlines.com/2022/06/23/followup-portsmouth-town-council-license-plate-readers-mt-hope-bridge

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Town Council, civil liberties, ALPR

Family plots launched in in Portsmouth AgInnovation Farm

AgInnovation and Eastern Conservation District logosThe Portsmouth AgInnovation Farm has announced that it is making available family farm plots to community members for the 2022 Spring and Summer growing season. The plots are located at the Portsmouth AgInnovation Farm on Jepson Lane in Portsmouth. The farm is located at Cloverbud Ranch and is a partnership between the Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District (ERICD) and Portsmouth School District.

Everything about the farm is focused on education around sustainable agriculture. “Kids these days are so disconnected from where food is grown. To them, food comes from the fridge,” said Margie Brennan, Portsmouth School District’s science coach and coordinator for the project. “We wanted to give kids an opportunity to learn about sustainable agriculture by doing it.” Portsmouth Middle School has been a key partner in the project and will hold STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) education classes, as well as after-school programs at the farm.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans’ diets are out of balance with federal recommendations. “While people in the United States are consuming more vegetables and fruit than in 1970, the average U.S. diet still falls short of the recommendations in the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans for these major food groups” (source: USDA).

The Portsmouth AgInnovation Farm is a project of Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District (ERICD). Sara Churgin, ERICD District Manager, said, “This is a project that will positively affect the entire island community. Children and families will be introduced to healthy eating as well as farming, an extremely important business – especially in light of COVID-19 with food security being threatened.”

Much headway has been made on the farm. Portions of the farm have been tilled and prepared for planting. A storage shed, classroom, and seasonal high tunnel have been installed. Plans for the farm include a pollinator garden, outdoor classroom with pavilion, deer fencing, and irrigation. Churgin said, “Some of the projects have been funded, but there is still great opportunity for support. We have been overwhelmed with the time and effort people have already invested in the farm and we can’t wait to see what’s next.” 

The family farm plots are $30 for the season and financial assistance is available. Families will be responsible for maintaining their plot and must adhere to safety regulations. 

To sign up, visit www.easternriconservation.org/aginnovation-farm or email Emma Crisfield at ecrisfield.ericd@gmail.com. For more information on ERICD or to sign up for email updates, visit www.easternriconservation.org.

Editorial note: From a press release.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, AgInnovation

Portsmouth Water Board election June 8

The Portsmouth Water and Fire District will hold its annual election of officers on Wednesday, June 8, 2022 at the District's main office at 1944 East Main Road. The polls will open at 7:00 AM and close at 8:00 PM.

Of the Board's seven seats, the positions of one (1) Moderator and one (1) Treasurer are up for election.

Running for the position of Moderator is David G. Reise of 66 Freeborn St.

Running for the position of Treasurer is William L. Douglas, Jr. of 524 Middle Rd.

Voters will be required to show identification to vote in the District’s election.

Editorial note: From a Portsmouth Water and Fire District news release.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, pwfd

OpEd: Sustainable future demands offshore wind, not ocean oil drilling

Sen. Dawn Euer (D-13)By Sen. Dawn Euer

April 20 marked 12 years since the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. The disaster released over 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico making it the largest marine oil spill in history. Its legacy includes more than $500 million in losses to the recreation industry, $1 billion of losses to the seafood industry, and a 4-8% decrease in the regional housing market. For years after, the spill continued to affect marine wildlife in the region.

While this tragedy was monumental in its size and devastation, oil spills are not rare events. They are continuously happening across the country. While separated by invisible jurisdictional lines, we all share one ocean, so an oil spill anywhere is an oil spill everywhere. That’s why, as the Ocean State, we must do everything we can do to protect our coasts, wildlife, and economy.

The federal government has demonstrated a renewed commitment to climate change, science, and equity, however, it has also continued to auction off acres of the U.S. coast for drilling without considering the greenhouse gas emissions that could result. In the face of uncertainty, states are leading the way, not just in banning and restricting offshore drilling, but in transitioning our energy towards clean renewable energy.

In 2019, I stood with legislators from eight other states working on coordinated action to ban offshore drilling. Since then, ten states have banned or restricted drilling.

As we continue to move away from offshore drilling, we must look toward the promises of offshore wind. The transition to clean renewable energy is essential in our fight against climate change. Offshore wind offers us an incredible opportunity to do that.

In the past few years, we’ve seen a surge of interest and opportunities around offshore wind. The latest federal lease auction in February in the New York Bight was the most successful in U.S. history. And not just for offshore wind auctions, but including the oil and gas industry. Offshore wind is our future and the future is now.

We’re in the critical decade for climate action. The climate crisis demands that we promptly cut greenhouse gas emissions and transition our energy to renewable and clean sources. Offshore wind offers us an opportunity to mitigate climate impacts, protect human health, and conserve our ocean. This transition is larger than just the action of one state. It can only be achieved through a whole of government approach, coordination between states, and critical collaboration with communities. That’s why I’m part of the Coastal Working Group through the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators.

This group brings together coastal legislators with a focus on ocean climate policy ideas, strategies, and lessons learned. Through this group, I’m working with northeastern legislatorsto ensure our transition to offshore wind helps to meet ambitious climate goals. We must make sure that this development is done responsibly while taking into consideration workers, fisheries, local supply chains, and marine wildlife protection.

This year, I introduced S.B.2583. This bill incentivizes regional coordination and requires that the distribution company request proposals for the development of 600 new megawatts of offshore wind by August 2022. It also sets requirements for bidder proposals, including environmental and fisheries mitigation plans, a diversity, equity and inclusion plan, and employment and domestic supply chain considerations.

With states committing to a transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean renewable energy, I know we have what we need to take action on climate and protect our oceans from future disasters. 

While this week we remember the tragedy of Deepwater Horizon, I stand hopeful and optimistic about the future of our ocean. I’m proud of the work the Ocean State and all coastal states are doing to not just prevent future disasters, but to improve the health of our coasts, wildlife, and create a thriving coastal economy for generations to come.

Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) is chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, GA

OpEd: We Must Reimagine Roe to Truly Protect Access for All

Womxn Project logoStatement by The Womxn Project on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade on Saturday, January 22, 2022

“As we mark the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that affirmed the right to abortion, but what is clear is that right is under attack.  For many people pushed to the margins - women of color, low-income people, young people, and immigrant women – the right has been pushed out of reach. 

We worked hard to pass the Reproductive Privacy Act and make sure that no matter what happens at the federal level that here in Rhode Island the right would be protected in our state. This is a critical step, but it does not ensure everyone who needs an abortion can actually get one. We believe in more!

  • We are proud to continue to work with Representative Liana Cassar, Senator Bridget Valverde and a strong set of partners to advance the “Equality in Abortion Coverage Act”, our state bill to eliminate the bans on health coverage for abortion and to advocate for the federal EACH Woman Act

  • We are grateful to Senators Reed and Whitehouse and Representatives David Cicilline and Jim Langevin for standing with us in support of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which ensures lawmakers do not push medically unnecessary restrictions just to make it harder to provide or seek an abortion.  

  • We need to pass our state bill and push for the EACH Woman and WHPA, but the fact is that still won’t get rid of policies like the one we have here in Rhode Island that create extra barriers for young people. Some people don’t have parents they can rely on. We should make sure anyone who is not ready to be a parent can get an abortion.  We need to get this unnecessary and harmful barriers off the books! 

  • There are many other important steps we can take to make sure that whether someone chooses adoption, seeks abortion or wants to become a parent or add to their family that they can make the decision that makes sense for them and get timely, quality care. This includes ongoing efforts to address barriers to abortion pills, making sure that people who are incarcerated get adequate and compassionate reproductive health care, and continuing to expand the availability of the full range of services people need to plan their families and futures and advance health equity for all Rhode Islanders. 

We know that Black, Indigenous and people of color in our state continue to deal with huge obstacles to the support and services needed to live with health and dignity.  We believe that the ability to seek health care should not be predicated on who you are, where your benefits come from, how much money you make or where you live.  It should not be limited by how old you are.  It is way past time that we take action to make sure that when a person needs to end a pregnancy, they will have access to safe, affordable medical care.

Let us reimagine what it truly looks like to honor Roe and make sure that we are able to create true abortion access for all!”    

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, GA, healthcare

OpEd: Southern New England states must honor commitment to cutting transportation pollution

Sen. DiMario (D-36), Rep. Cortvriend (D-72)By Sen. Alana DiMario and Rep. Terri Cortvriend

In the decade-plus since the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) was first developed under the Carcieri administration, there has been growing, bipartisan consensus that we must end our dependence on fossil fuels for the health of the people in our communities and our planet. No one disputes that reality.

And in that decade of work and planning and a worsening climate crisis, no one has come up with a better solution to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. TCI would cut greenhouse gas pollution from motor vehicles in the region by an estimated 26% and generate a total of more than $3 billion dollars over 10 years for the participating jurisdictions to invest in equitable, less-polluting transportation options and to help energize economic recovery.

It isn't a political landscape that dictates what we must do here; it is the physical reality of the world in which we are living, and an absolute necessity to take action to reduce those emissions. 

This week Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker cast doubt on the agreement their states signed with Rhode Island and Washington D.C. to take action on TCI, with Lamont saying high gasoline prices would probably mean his state legislature wouldn’t support it, and Baker following, saying he wouldn’t stay without other states. We are so disappointed.

That’s unacceptable and short-sighted. We should all be outraged by the idea of staying dependent on and beholden to giant fossil fuel corporations that take billions in taxpayer subsidies while raising gas prices and raking in record profits, all while polluting the earth and making our communities sicker. These are the costs we all bear every day, and it’s long past time the fossil fuel companies take some responsibility for the damage they have done. A model like TCI is still the best plan we have to significantly reduce emissions and help fund Rhode Island’s off ramp from fossil fuel dependence.

It should be noted that Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut together account for almost three-quarters of transportation emissions across New England. We need to do our part to address it.

Here in Rhode Island, our legislative leaders have — fortunately — expressed receptiveness for TCI. The Ocean State has both the ability and the responsibility to move forward on this concept regardless of whether our neighbors uphold their commitments.

In the upcoming legislative session, we will be working on a plan to center equity while reducing transportation emissions and creating a funding stream for modernizing transit. While a regional commitment would be more effective — and we look forward to reaching out to neighboring states to broker such an agreement — nothing could be more ineffective than longer inaction.

As elected officials it is our duty to keep the health and safety of our communities front and center in the decisions that we make. Leading the region in implementing the concepts of TCI does exactly that. For too many decades we have deferred acting on climate change, and there is no more time to waste. If we aren't here to fight for the bold and necessary changes to address the most pressing issues facing us and to reduce the burden on future generations, then why are we here?

Sen. Alana DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown) and Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown) are the sponsors of the TEAM Community Act (2021-S 0872/2021-H 6310), which creates the statutory framework to implement TCI.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, GA

OpEd: Why Rhode Island needs municipal broadband infrastructure

By Rep. Deborah Ruggiero

I could not have predicted the incredible sense of urgency for fiber broadband that has swept Rhode Island and the nation in just five short months!   

Millions of dollars in federal funds are available to states, but to access the money the feds are mandating states invest in deploying fiber broadband to unserved and underserved citizens. That’s one way to make sure Rhode Island, one of only two states in the country without any broadband governance or investment over the past eight years, starts deploying fiber to your home and business.  

US News.com reports that Rhode Island is ranked 37th for high-speed internet access; Rhode Island is ranked 49th for access to faster, more advanced Gigabit internet connection. Over the past decade, while Rhode Island sat on the sidelines as this technology soared, many states and municipalities invested in fiber broadband. We need to catch up, and fast. 

Seventeen states have already earmarked federal dollars for broadband including Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Rhode Island could see $112 million in capital projects for fiber broadband.  The U.S Treasury is pretty clear that state capital projects must focus on 100 Mbps (download) and 20 mbps (upload).

Currently 45% of Rhode Islanders do not have 100/20 internet speeds, according to OOKLA Speed Test Intelligence Jan 2020-Aug 2021.  Go to www.speedtest.net to see your download/upload internet speeds. 

Local government should not be in the broadband business, just as local government is not in the airline business. Local government is in the infrastructure business; building sidewalks and bridges. Government is well-suited to build broadband infrastructure and lease it to internet service providers (ISPs), just as governments often build and own airports and lease the gates to airlines that compete for customers. Competition will bring better services and lower prices.

A municipality could build and own the conduit (pipe) and the fiber (glass) for the public good so businesses and residents have an “open access network.”  Any ISP that wants to do business pays rent to the municipality to offer their internet services.  Residents and businesses have a choice of internet providers and a municipality has a recurring revenue stream.   

Longmont, Colorado, is an example of a successful municipal broadband project. NextLight began building its award-winning fiber network in 2014 and now offers 90,000 residents access to 1,000 Mbps service with 60% take rate (residents subscribing to fiber broadband). There’s also Wilson, North Carolina; Cedar Falls, Iowa; and Everett, Mass.; to name a few. Municipalities would have to perform a cost benefit analysis.  If municipalities make bad decisions there will be failures, which is true of any infrastructure project.

This business model could be an economic opportunity for cable companies.  Municipalities have something that private and for-profit companies do not have and that’s “patient” capital.  A city or town has the financial ability to bond to build over 20 to 30 years, something private companies cannot do because Wall Street will only look at a 3- to 5-year rate of return.

The best measure of fiber broadband is more than “access,” it’s the societal impacts of what it delivers - online learning, telehealth and remote work conferences.  I will not stop advocating for faster, reliable, and affordable municipal fiber broadband because it’s not just the future; it’s what will determine where we live, work, learn, and do business.

Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, Jamestown/Middletown, is chairwoman of House Committee on Innovation, Internet, & Technology. She serves on House Finance and sponsored the RI Broadband bill that unanimously passed the House.  

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, GA, broadband

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