Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Follow-Up: Dave Heineman's Broadband Betrayal

by Kyle Michaelis
Glad to see others taking notice of the opportunity our politicians are blowing by doing the bidding of the telecommunications lobby rather than tackling head-on the 21st Century challenges facing tech-starved rural Nebraska and doing something about them.

Wednesday's Lincoln Journal-Star editorial reads:
Nebraska needs fast broadband Internet service to prosper in the 21st century. The quickest way to make that vital service available to businesses and consumers in rural areas of the state is to allow publicly owned utilities and locally owned governments to provide it.

But the Legislature threw a roadblock in the path of progress last year when it passed a two-year moratorium on that sort of thing.

A task force was supposed to begin studying the issue. But it has begun to meet only recently.

Meanwhile, access to high-speed broadband continues to spread across the United States, dividing the country into the haves and the have-nots. Thanks to the moratorium, much of Nebraska languishes in the have-not category....

The private sector is not providing broadband. Because government and publicly owned utilities have been blocked by legislation, that means that that no one is providing the service.

Early in the 20th century, Nebraska found itself in a similar situation when the private sector failed to provide electricity to vast swaths of the state. That’s when hardy, self-reliant Nebraskans banded together in the public sector to furnish their own electricity. The legacy lives on today; Nebraska is the only state in the nation where all electricity is publicly owned.

Today, Nebraska’s leaders should follow the sensible example set by their predecessors....

The Brennan Center suggests legislators step aside and let local communities decide for themselves whether they need the public sector to provide one of the 21st centuries necessities. The task force and state senators should pay heed.

I want to commend the Journal-Star for taking such a bold position on this issue. Sadly, the situation is even worse than this story suggests, as the 2-year moratorium left the door open only for the eventual leasing of our public utilities' infrastructure for profit by private corporations. As to any true public broadband service, however, the bill imposed an outright ban, shutting the door firmly in the face of progress.

It is worth noting that the Journal-Star lays blame for this horrible policy blunder entirely at the legislature's doorstep. Curiously, no mention is made of Gov. Dave Heineman's signing this damnable legislation into law. If the legislature truly "threw a roadblock in the path of progress," Heineman was laying nails along the roadway just to make sure our rural economy would go nowhere.

Also curious is the failure, again, to make any mention of Heineman's gubernatorial rival, David Hahn, whose long taken a stance that falls in line with the Journal-Star's call, putting the needs of the people first and thereby directly conflicting with Heineman's corporate-driven agenda. In the midst of an upcoming election, this seems like relevant information that should find its way into the newspaper's pages one way or another.

Although receiving shamelessly little media coverage, Hahn has appropriately responded, daring to call out Heineman for his role as no one else has had the courage to do:
On the day I announced my candidacy in December, 2005 and since, I have advocated Nebraska to be a leader in broadband Internet....

We should develop a broadband information infrastructure that will support Nebraska's urban and rural economy and that we will be proud to hand off to future generations. Like public roads, public power, and public schools; Nebraska-wide broadband Internet is one of those common sense services that is vital to our life together and a bright economic future.

Unfortunately, Governor Heineman slowed Nebraska's leadership in this area by supporting, and then signing LB 645 into law....As governor, I will lead the effort to make Nebraska number one in the provision of affordable broadband across the entire state. We need to be in the fast lane on this initiative instead of idling in the garage....

The Internet was first created and supported by government money and technology. This wonderful communication and commerce system belongs to every Nebraskan; urban, rural, rich, middle class, and poor....As governor I will work with private enterprise, local governments and public power systems to lead the effort to make this a reality in Nebraska.

Impressive on the issues. Willing to say what needs to be said and to actually hold those in power accountable. This David Hahn is a true breath of fresh air in Nebraska politics - especially in contrast to Heineman, for whom it must be said the only thing more stale than his policies is likely to be the rural economy that suffers from his neglect.

Pay heed.


Blogger Hosh said...

The broadband issue made the front page of the Midlands section in the OWH. Ironically, they have Osborne with the same quotes as you have for Hahn.
As far as Heineman, I realize he's governor, but can you lay all the blame on him? I mean, the legislature did pass the bill. I know Heineman has the end say, but you have to give some blame to the legislature for carrying it out. I really think they should share the blame.


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