Rob Wittman never had much to say about broadband internet access in the Congressional District he represents until the issue came up in the Democratic Primary this spring. Much of the district is rural and without connection to the web services that stimulate economic development, support businesses and allow remote access to medical care. They are without this connection because private markets do not provide what amounts to a public utility in remote areas, and no amount of deregulation will make them want to. The return on investment simply isn’t there.
Back in the day, much of Tennessee had a similar problem with electricity. The Federal Government, not private enterprise, solved the problem through the Tennessee Valley Authority, a New Deal Democrat effort to modernize rural areas of the state. Could we learn something from this very successful effort?
Today I got an email from Congressman Wittman that included a press releaseabout an interview he gave to an industry government relations executive at the Virginia Cable Telecommunications Associationannual “Virginia Cable Show.” This is Comcast Cable, people, and we all love these guys like we love the DMV. Rob Wittman cannot be bothered to meet with constituents but has all the time in the world to meet with cable TV firm lobbyists on the issue. Does Wittman suddenly care how this affects constituents? Or did he just want to get in front of lobbyists and pretend?
Wittman’s conversations with industry officials include talk of “eliminating the labyrinth of red tape and regulations, defining prescriptive easements, establishing dig once policies, and strengthening public private partnerships. Not sure what “labyrinth of regulation” he thinks limits expansion of broadband access, but I’m pretty sure he’s not talking about restrictions on local communities that would like to construct public access nodes.
Rob Wittman holds a seat in the United States Congress and does not need to beg the cable industry to provide broadband internet access in rural areas of the First District of Virginia, nor promise them profits for doing so. He could propose legislation that would create a federal authority for managing this modernization of connectivity infrastructure in remote areas of the United States. He won’t, because it wouldn’t help the corporations and wealthy people who fund his campaigns make money, and this is why they contribute to his campaigns. Sad.