Municipal Broadband Internet Moving Forward

Municipal Broadband Internet Moving Forward

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

Growing Economy

BY Nathan Newman

Municipal Broadband Internet Moving Forward

With Earthlink pulling out of San Francisco's public Wi-Fi Internet project, the City of Chicago abandoning its own Wi-Fi plan, and other such announcements in the last few weeks, some commentators were quick to declare the idea of municipal Wi-Fi dead. However, others quickly emphasized that other municipal Wi-Fi plans were moving forward.

Recent stories of municipal Internet failure are based more on the deep financial problems of private sector partner Earthlink, which suddenly began backing out of earlier hyped commitments. The reality is that the recent projects that are backtracking were sold as a bit of a free lunch-- with no cost to the cities involved and little cost to users, a bit of a dot-com hype at the local level. But cities and towns with clear plans for using wireless to serve concrete community needs have seen obvious benefits from their projects.

In Minneapolis, for example, the project centered on helping integrate communication among public safety and city agencies, with the city agreeing to be an "anchor tenant" paying $1.25 million a year for the city's own use of the network. And the network proved its value when the Minneapolis bridge collapsed in August. With cellular services overloaded within 30 minutes of the collapse, the Wi-Fi network opened up the subscription-based service to all residents, federal officials, and others needing to use smartphones and laptops to communicate with each other. 

Limits of Wi-Fi and New Fiber Optic Networks: The reality is that Wi-Fi technology has limits, given its short range and its trouble extending service inside many buildings, but municipal Wi-Fi networks can play a real role in improving community members lives, especially as cell phones like Apple's iPhone are increasingly equipped with Wi-Fi capability. And given the failure of the federal government to invest serious money in upgrading our national broadband infrastructure, Wi-Fi networks are pioneering models for local communities to take the next step in combining Wi-Fi with investments in higher-speed fiber networks to create more complete local broadband networks. 

One-upping its Twin City partner, for example, the St. Paul City Council this week voted to seek partners for a fiber-optic high speed municipal network, which residents think will take $200 million in investments by partners including the city, public schools, the local county, and the state. Looking to build local fiber-optic networking is an increasing trend among cities looking to serve their residents and give their local industries a leg-up in international economic competitiveness.

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Increasing Democracy

BY J. Mijin Cha

States Rejecting Bad Immigration Policies

The Illinois legislature recently amended the Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act to prohibit employers from enrolling in the federal Employment Eligibility Verification System (E-Verify), a voluntary program to supposedly identify the employment eligibility of new hires and verify Social Security numbers. The problem is that the system has estimated error rates between 5% and 10% and does not detect identity fraud or theft, inevitably leading to discrimination and unfair treatment of employees misidentified as lacking proper documentation.   

The new Illinois measure would not allow participation in the E-Verify program until Homeland Security can conduct 99% of the E-Verify investigations and return the final results within three days in order to protect employees from unfair treatment.

Feds File Suit: The federal government responded to the measure by filing suit in court to overturn Illinois' law. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff personally attacked the measure by complaining that the Illinois law made it harder for the federal government to enforce immigration laws without acknowledging the potential threat to employees from using a system with such a high error rate. 

Just last month a judge shut down new federal rules that had sought to force all employers to fire any employee who received a "no match" letter from the Social Security administration through systems like E-Verify. The lawsuit against the rules had been brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the National Immigration Law Center, and others, based on exactly the problems identified by the Illinois law in the national identity verification system, so Chertoff should better understand why Illinois is opposing this kind of error-prone identification systems.   

A Trend Rejecting Anti-Immigrant Measures:  While anti-immigrant measures get a lot of media play, the reality is that many high-immigration states see such measures as self-defeating and costly.

 - The Illinois law is part of an increasing trend to reverse reactionary immigration policies.

 - Riverside was the first municipality in New Jersey to enact legislation penalizing anyone who employed or rented to an illegal immigrant. Since then, the town has suffered severe economic losses. Last week, just over a year since Riverside enacted the ordinance, the city council voted to rescind the measure. 

 - New York Governor Spitzer announced that drivers' licenses will be issued in the state regardless of immigration status, rolling back rules adopted four years ago. Governor Spitzer also decided to have New York cover cancer treatments for immigrants that the feds refuse to cover. 

 - The Arlington (Virginia) County Board passed a resolution that calls for promoting the integration of immigrants and strongly rebuked elected officials elsewhere in Northern Virginia for clamping down on illegal immigrants.

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Valuing Families

BY Adam Thompson

Judge Blocks Back-Door Approach to Restrict Abortion Access

A federal judge on Monday blocked implementation of a Missouri law that could force abortion clinics to shut their doors if they fail to comply with stricter facility standards. Although some proponents of the law claimed it is necessary to ensure patient safety, it is clear the intent was to impose burdensome regulations on abortion clinics that could lead to their closure. In fact, Governor Matt Blunt hailed the law as "one of the strongest pieces of pro-life legislation in Missouri history." 

The law requires abortion providers, like Planned Parenthood, where women go for information, counseling, and services, to meet some of the same facility standards as heavily regulated ambulatory surgical centers. Examples include hallways at least 6 feet wide and doorways at least 44 inches wide. However, in its suit against the law, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri successfully argued the regulations would require the organization to spend either $2 million in upgrades unnecessary for women's safety or stop offering abortion services entirely. The federal judge, apparently agreeing the regulations are onerous, blocked the law and ordered abortion providers and the state to come up with modified rules that would allow the facilities to stay open. If agreement is not reached, the case will go back to the judge for a final decision.

The Trend in Anti-Abortion "TRAP Laws": The Missouri law is akin to back-door strategies in at least 28 other states to restrict abortion access. Referred to by reproductive rights activists as Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers, or TRAP laws, these anti-choice laws impose burdensome regulations that can lead to clinics shutting their doors. The Center for Reproductive Rights says TRAP laws are more "insidious" than abortion bans because they steadily and discreetly chip away at a woman's constitutional right to an abortion by indirectly forcing clinics to close, achieving the same results as an all-out ban.  

TRAP laws regulate everything from ceiling height, outdoor weed-control, and, in a win for sufferers of entomophobia, a law in South Carolina requiring clinics to keep outdoor shrubbery insect-free. 

However, abortion rights activists are gaining headway against these laws by exposing their true intent, which is to limit a woman's constitutional right to have an abortion.

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Research Roundup

Even as Congress debates expanding SCHIP health care coverage for children, the reality is that over half of people (53%) living in low-income families in nine states and the District of Columbia are eligible for neither Medicaid nor SCHIP coverage, according to new analysis from the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the Center for Social Policy. While eligibility varies across different states, no state covers more than 80% of those low-income families.

Key changes in land development patterns could play a critical role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as outlined in a new book, Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change produced by The Urban Land Institute in conjunction with Smart Growth America. As the essays in the book emphasize, if sprawling development is not refocused on smarter development plans, projected increases in miles driven will overwhelm any gain from fuel-efficiency proposals. 

A new report from the Commonwealth Fund, Creating Payment Systems to Accelerate Value-Driven Health Care: Issues and Options for Policy Reform, discusses the many concepts and key provisions that go into developing effective pay-for-performance systems. The report draws on existing systems and presents a strategy for improving payment systems, specifically payments that reward the quality of care provided.

In Putting the Pieces Together: A Taxpayer's Guide to the Mississippi Budget, the Mississippi Economic Policy Center highlights the pervasive unfairness of the current Mississippi tax system where the top 20% of income earners pay 7% of their income in state and local taxes, while the poorest 20% of earners (making an average of $7,000 per year) pay 10% of that meager income in taxes.

Please email us leads on good research at


Municipal Broadband Internet Moving Forward - Muncipal Broadband Nationwide Map

Free Pess - Community Internet

Baller Herbst - Community Broadband

MuniWireless: The Voice of Public Broadband

Wireless Philadelphia

States Rejecting Bad Immigration Policies

Illinois HB 1744, Workplace Privacy-Verify

Electronic Privacy Information Clearinghouse - E-Verify System: DHS Changes Name, But Problems Remain for U.S. Workers

National Immigration Law Center - Court Halts Government from Implementing Flawed Social Security No-Match Rule

Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) - Win: Riverside New Jersey Rescinds Anti-Immigrant Ordinance

Judge Blocks Back-Door Approach to Restrict Abortion Access

Center for Reproductive Rights - In the States: Fighting Anti-Choice Legislation in State Legislatures

National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) - State Profiles: The Status of Women's Reproductive Rights in the United States

NARAL - Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers: Q&A

Eye on the Right

The Right wants to keep the federal government out of education, except of course for No Child Left Behind, abstinence only sex education, and creation magic. Louisiana Senator (and "john") David Vitter recently earmarked $100,000 for the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) to improve science education.

Astute readers will notice the organization's name doesn't include "science" or "education," just as their mission statement doesn't include them either. But a previous version of their website included a "battle plan to combat evolution."

Now, LFF is defending Senator Vitter as a "family values guy." So, a "family values" Senator who frequents prostitutes is funding a conservative religious organization (which defends him) to give their insight into science despite the conspicuous absence of the subject from their mission statement.

Anyone want to tell me where local control or education fit into this plan of federally funded quid pro quo?

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The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
J. Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
John Bacino, Communications Associate

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