25 states have passed state cable franchise bills. Many were passed approximately 10 years ago. Promises were made that cutting local control of cable franchises would streamline roll out and result in more investment by the companies providing cable services (which are also the companies providing broadband services).

Yesterday, the Cleveland Scene published “State Laws Allowed AT&T to Exclude Cleveland’s Poorest Neighborhoods From High-Speed Internet Service”. I encourage you to read the whole article. The article connects the dots between Ohio’s state franchise bill (SB 117) and the lack of AT&T broadband service at or above 18 mbps in Cleveland’s poorest neighborhoods.

Cleveland is very fortunate to have Bill Callahan who has been working on digital inclusion for over twenty years. He recognized the injustice because he works in the communities that Ohio’s cable franchise bill has left with only one high-speed internet option.

SB 117 states: “[N]o video service provider shall deny access to video service to any group of potential residential subscribers in its video service area because of the race or income of the residents in the local area in which the group resides.” Who approves state franchises and should be keeping an eye on state franchisees? The Ohio Department of Commerce.

With the current FCC cutting back broadband regulation, it is clear neither the federal government nor the states are regulating internet service. Cleveland’s lack of broadband competition (and thus affordable prices) tells us the free market is not the answer to ubiquitous affordable high-speed broadband. And Cleveland is not unique. Home internet access is essential today. Having it and using it not only help individuals to get ahead, it keeps folks from getting further and further behind. We, as a country, cannot allow digital inequity to be the cause of widening divides.