By Ryan Johnston
Decisions made at the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) have a direct impact on municipalities. In some cases, municipalities are directly responsible for federal policy implementation. In others, a federal decision can strip a local government of its autonomy.
Local government persepctives are rarely embraced when these decisions are being made. In fact, few municipalities usually have the capacity or expertise to weigh in on federal proceedings. When they do, too often, their comments are often overlooked. Over time, that unfortunate reality erodes trust and the willingness to devote community resources to what seems like a futile endeavor.
On October 4, 2022, Next Century Cities released a report entitled Resounding Silence: The Need For Local Insights In Federal Policymaking. The analysis documents how local insights have been treated in previous FCC rulemakings.. Specifically, the report highlights the Small Cell and Multi-Tenant Environment proceedings, the challenges and solutions that municipalities suggested, and the FCC’s responses. The report also provides recommendations for immediate actions that the FCC can take to improve engagement with local officials and ensure that community needs are centered in federal policymaking.
Centering community-perspectives into federal broadband policymaking from the start would improve access and adoption programs writ large. With a few improvements, the FCC could work with communities to effectuate universal broadband goals instead of deciding what is best for them with industry partners.