Friday, May 14, 2021

Foothills wine region resists siting of Dollar General, invoking area's rurality as inconsistent with chain that's making a fortune decimating rural communities

Gray's Corner, Somerset, California, May, 2021

The adjacent communities of FairPlay, Somerset and Mt. Aukum have for several months been resisting Dollar General's proposal to site a story at the corner of Mr. Aukum Road and Fairplay Road, in El Dorado County, California.  This place is an hour away from where I live in greater Sacramento, and I've been paying more attention to this dispute than I might otherwise because my family has an off-the-grid cabin a few miles away.  So we're in the area once a month or so, and we also subscribe to the local "Nextdoor" chat.  That's where we started seeing talk of this Dollar General set to go in there--we heard about it as the locals organized on NextDoor to try to stop it. 

The biggest obstacle to stopping the siting of the Dollar General in this location seems to be that it is already zoned commercial.  In fact, the Dollar General would sit adjacent to "Gray's Corner" convenience store, your typical gas station and mini-mart.  There's another building there, too, where there used to be a beauty salon--and perhaps also a tasting room.  But now it's just Gray's Corner market and the specter of a Dollar General.   

The locals have tried various methods to oppose the Dollar General.  Here's an online petition, which features the following information about the corporation (none of which I have verified):  

Dollar General's start up is only $250,000. It recoups this investment in under 2 years. It targets rural communities of less than 20, 000 people and Low INCOME areas. They target areas known as "food deserts" where residents do not have ready access to food stores. Many states have policies that prevent Dollar General from opening within a mile of an established store. The target audience buys small quantity house brands that actually cost more than going to town to buy in greater bulk. Their marketing demographic is low income, seniors and millennials and those with just a few dollars in their pocket. There are now more Dollar General Stores than McDonalds in the US.
Gray's Corner, Somerset, California, May, 2021

At the dozens of wineries nearby, one can find large postcards opposing the Dollar General, which include language like this: 

Help our Community and Neighbors stop the proposed Dollar General from moving into the Fair Play area.  We are the Fair Play AVA and it took a ton of work and individual effort to obtain that classification.  We do not need a Dollar General Store being the first thing our guests and tourists see when they come into the Fair Play area.  

PLEASE CONTACT YOUR EL DORADO COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, AND PLANNING COMMISSIONERS AT THE FOLLOWING EMAIL, AND DEMAND THAT YOUR COMMUNITY VOICE BE HEARD, AND THAT THEY STOP THE PROJECT FROM GOING FORWARD DUE TO CEQA AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS. 

EMAIL edc.cob@edcgov.uds AND julie.saylor@edcgov.us 

 

Postcards being distributed at FairPlay AVA wineries, May 2021 (c) Lisa R. Pruitt

The postcards feature an aerial view of the FairPlay area.  This is not the first time I've seen campaigns explicitly invoking El Dorado County's rural character, usually in the election context.  Some posts about those earlier events/issues are here, here and here.  Some posts about commerce in El Dorado County, including Fair Play, are here, here, and here.  

Vacant lot where proposed Dollar General Store would be sited in FairPlay, California

As it happens, these efforts to lobby the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors have thus far fallen on deaf ears.  And on March 10, 2021, the Sacramento Business Journal reported that the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors had rejected a proposal to ban approvals of chain businesses in rural parts of the county for 45 days.  This must have arisen because of the Dollar General matter, but I can't get behind the paywall to see if Dollar General is mentioned in the story.  

Vacant commercial center at Gray's Corner,
FairPlay (c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2021
Looking at the county newspaper, the Mountain Democrat (which holds itself out as the oldest paper in California), I see coverage of a rally last Saturday in opposition to the store.  The caption for a photo accompanying that story (also behind a paywall) states:

The Dollar General proposed to go in at that very intersection does not need Planning Commission approval as the site is zoned commercial and the county has no design requirements in place that might protect the rural character of the area. Residents say the region, which is known for its wineries and scenic countryside, is not the right fit for a chain store.

I also see from searching the Mountain Democrat website that other communities in the county successfully fended off Dollar General stores.  Those were in the northern part of the county, north of Highway 50, in the arguably more atmospheric Gold Rush towns of Georgetown and Cool.  You can read more here (just go to the Mountain Democrat's website and search "Dollar General").  At least one of those matters wound up in El Dorado County Superior Court.  

Prior posts about El Dorado County are here, here, here, here, here, and here.  

Thursday, May 13, 2021

How opioid distributors ridiculed West Virginians, even as they pumped millions of pills into Appalachia

Eric Eyre, the Pulitzer Prize winning West Virginia journalist who has been reporting on Appalachia's opioid epidemic for a while now, caught my attention this evening with a tweet about a somewhat scandalous dispatch today from the federal trial charging three major pharmaceutical distributors with fueling the region's opioid crisis.  Today's dispatch is headlined, "As opioid epidemic raged, drug company executives made fun of West Virginians," and it is reported by two of Eyre's colleagues at the Mountain State Spotlight, Lucas Manfield and Lauren Peace.  Here's an excerpt:  

In one [email], shared on Thursday, AmerisourceBergen executive Chris Zimmerman shared a lyrical parody of the theme song for “The Beverly Hillbillies,” making fun of “a poor mountaineer” who purchased pills at a “cash ‘n carry” pain clinic.

Another was titled “OxyContinVille” and included a parody of a Jimmy Buffett song that described driving from Kentucky to buy pills.

In a third email, a member of Zimmerman’s team wrote, “One of the hillbilly’s must have learned how to read :-)” in response to an email detailing Kentucky’s new opioid regulations.

Zimmerman apologized in court for the contents of some of the emails, including the use of the term “pillbillies,” which he said referred to drug dealers, not patients.

“I shouldn’t have sent the email,” he said, but added that he took the attacks upon his credibility “personally.” He said the documents were cherry-picked out of context and defended the corporate culture at AmerisourceBergen, one of the three opioid distributors on trial in Charleston, and said it was of the “highest caliber.”

Eyre was interviewed yesterday on National Public Radio, explaining what's at stake in the criminal case against these corporations.  

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

SMU Law's Deason Center Seeks Criminal Justice Fellow to investigate "Country Justice"

Here are some details from the listing (NOTE:  preferred deadline is Friday, May 14, 2021): 

The post-doctoral fellow will perform research into criminal justice systems in small, tribal, and rural (STAR) communities. In particular, the fellow will lead the implementation of a mixed-methods research project titled "Country Justice." Launching in the state of Texas, the project aims to (1) Collect and analyze publicly available data about rural criminal justice systems statewide to better understand the relationship between justice systems and geographic and cultural contexts; (2) Conduct case studies of rural justice systems; (3) Synthesize and publish findings for scholarly and practitioner communities; (4) Work with community partners to identify and investigate issues of local concern. The Fellow will be produce scholarship on this research and, as opportunities arise and funding permits, will take on additional STAR justice work.

Essential Functions:
  • Plan, organize and conduct highly independent research under the guidance of the Director of Research. Collect, analyze, and interpret data independently or with little or no supervision. Develop and test research methods, measures, designs, and protocols. Analyze data and present findings and conclusions in relation to research questions.
  • Collaborate with the Director of Research and other members of the research team in preparing and publishing research results in peer-refereed journals. Present results at professional conferences and/or webinars. Prepare regular progress reports for project funders.
  • Participate in research proposals as co-Investigator
  • Keep abreast of research literature and emerging knowledge and translate advances in the subject area into research activity.
  • Attend and contribute to regular team and staff meetings, coordinating work with that of others to avoid conflict or duplication of effort. Anticipate and help resolve problems that may affect research objectives and deadlines.
  • Organizing Center events related to STAR, and supply content and some editorial oversight for the Center's STAR newsletter.
Read more here.  

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Law and Society 2021 features four (yes, count them, four!) panels on rural issues

 Here's the line up, pasted from an email from co-organizers of the Law and Rurality Collaborative Research Network, Michele Statz (University of Minnesota Medical School Duluth) and Katie (Kathryne) Young (University of Massachusetts Amherst):

The Law and Rurality CRN (#24) is thrilled to sponsor the following panels at the upcoming Law and Society Association 2021 Annual Meeting. Please note that the times listed are CDT.

Thursday, May 27
11 - 12:45 pm
Session ID: 842: "Counter-Narratives of the Rural Access to Justice Crisis: Interrogating Hypotheses, Methods, and the Stories We Tell"
Session Chair: Katie Young
Panelists: Michele Statz, Brian Farrell, Daria Fisher Page, Andrew Davies, and Victoria Smiegocki

Friday, May 28
1 - 2:45 pm
Session ID: 299: "Law in Liminal Spaces"
Session Chair: Lisa Pruitt
Panelists: Emily Prifogle, Jessica Shoemaker, Mary Hoopes, and Smita Ghosh

Friday, May 28
5 - 6:45 pm
Session ID: 389: "Using Data and Collaboration to Address Growth in Jail Incarceration in Rural America: Initial Findings from the Rural Jails Policy and Research Network"
Session Chair: Jennifer Peirce
Panelists: Jennifer Schwartz, Madeline Bailey, Sarah Shannon, and Andrew Taylor

Friday, May 28
7 - 8:45 pm
Session ID: 204: "Access to Justice, Legal Institutions, and Everyday People: What's Different about the Rural US?"
Session Chair: Katie Young
Panelists: Jennifer Sherman, Katie Billings, Annie Eisenberg, and Maybell Romero

If you're not yet a member of the Law and Rurality CRN but would like to learn more, please visit our website and/or email Michele Statz at mstatz@d.umn.edu to join our listserv.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Cruz Reynoso's rural life

Cruz Reynoso, former California Supreme Court Justice and my colleague at UC Davis School of Law for two decades, died yesterday at the age of 90.  Many are offering remembrances of Reynoso--who the faculty and staff at the law school knew as just "Cruz"--and it's interesting for me as a ruralist to see the number of references to "rural" in his life's story.  

Of course, Reynoso famously led California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), the "first statewide, federally funded legal aid program in the country."  That was during the heyday of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta's organizing in the 1960s.  CRLA provides free legal services to farmworkers.  In California, "rural" is largely conflated with agriculture in the popular imaginary (though there are far less densely populated and more remote California locales than its agricultural valleys), and the organization's website articulates its mission as helping “rural communities because those communities were not receiving legal help.”  The tumultuous history of that organization under Reynoso's leadership is recounted in a Los Angeles Times story

Then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan repeatedly vetoed federal funds for the California Rural Legal Assistance while Reynoso headed the office and even signed off on an investigation that accused the nonprofit of trying to foment murders and prison riots (the investigation went nowhere).
Among other achievements during his leadership, Reynoso "oversaw eventually successful efforts to ban the short-handled hoe, which required farm workers to stoop and led to debilitating back problems, and DDT, the deadly agricultural chemical."  

The Sacramento Bee reports on one of CRLA's big litigation victories under Reynoso's leadership, Diana v. California State Board of Education:  
It centered on Latino children who were incorrectly assessed by their school and labeled mentally challenged. The pupils were funneled into special education classes when, in reality, they were simply new English learners. CRLA lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of students in the Monterey County town of Soledad.

“CRLA won a consent decree that allowed non-Anglo children to choose the language in which they would respond on IQ tests,” wrote the Salinas Californian in 2016. “It banned verbal sections of the test. It also required state psychologists to develop an IQ test appropriate for Mexican Americans and other non-English-speaking students.”

This column by Gustavo Arellano in the Los Angeles Times, recounts Reynoso's childhood--including early activism--in Orange County, which then included significant rural stretches: 

[Reynoso's] family lived in a rural part of La Habra, where the Ku Klux Klan had held the majority of City Council seats just a decade earlier and Mexicans were forced to live on the wrong side of the tracks. Reynoso’s parents and neighbors had to travel a mile to the post office for their mail because the local postmaster claimed it was too inconvenient to deliver letters to their neighborhood.

Reynoso didn’t question this at first — “I just accepted that as part of the scheme of things,” he’d tell an oral historian decades later, in 2002.

But one day, a white family moved near the Reynosos and immediately began to receive mail. The teenage Cruz asked the postmaster why they were able to receive mail, but his Mexican family couldn’t. If you have a problem with this, the postmaster replied, write to her boss in Washington D.C.

And write a letter to the U.S. Postmaster General is exactly what Reynoso did.  According to a story released by UC Davis on the occasion of Reynoso's death: 

He wrote out a petition, gathered signatures, and successfully lobbied the U.S. Postmaster General in Washington, D.C., for rural mail delivery.

The obituary in the Los Angeles Times notes that Reynoso continued to live a rural life, even while working in Sacramento and Davis.  He "had a 30-acre spread in the agricultural Sacramento County town of Herald," population 1,184.  The LA Times also reports that, as children, Reynoso and his 10 siblings worked summers in the fields with their parents. 

But the rural fact that leapt out at me most prominently was this line from the UC Davis story about what Reynoso did after finishing law school at UC Berkeley:

Justice Reynoso and his wife, Jeannene, moved to El Centro, in California’s Imperial Valley, where he started his own practice.
Imperial County and El Centro, its county seat, are legal deserts these days--and they probably were back then, too.  Just imagine a UC Berkeley Law or UC Davis Law grad going to El Centro and hanging out a shingle in 2021?  It's nearly unthinkable.  If it were more common to follow such a career path--and for legal educators to honor those paths--the Golden State would not be facing a rural lawyer shortage, with impoverished communities of vulnerable workers like the Imperial Valley suffering most as a consequence of that deficit.    

A Sacramento Bee column about Reynoso, by Marcos Breton on the occasion of Reynoso's death, is here.  Among other striking photos is one of Reynoso at the Herald property in 2000 with his then young grandchildren; Reynoso was wearing overalls, to me a signifier of his rural authenticity.  The photo was taken by a Bee reporter the year he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and it ran on the occasion of that  paper's reporting of the honor.  

Speaking of that authenticity, I always appreciated Cruz's use of the word "folk" to refer to groups of people, or the populace generally. Indeed, I see the Spanish translation is "la gente," meaning "people, town, dweller."  For me, his use of "folk" provided implicit permission to use that word and "folks," both terms I'd grown up with but later excised from my professional vocabulary because I was concerned they were too colloquial.  

Cruz was as approachable to students as he was to faculty and staff. We often saw him walking to the Silo (an eatery on campus) with a group of students for lunch. And in my first year at UC Davis, 1999-2000, when Cruz was visiting from UCLA's law school, he gamely agreed to participate in a student sponsored moot court event called "Battle of the Giants," which featured two professors playing the role of advocates in a mock appellate argument. It took a while for the student organizers of the event to find someone to be the opposing "giant" (eventually, I reluctantly agreed), but Cruz had not hesitated to take on this time consuming task that would hardly be valued by the administration.

Cruz was very gentle in how he engaged and educated people. I heard him say, in his typical soft-spoken way, to a group of students many years ago, "No human being is illegal." This was at at a time when the phrases "illegal alien" and "illegal immigrant" were still widely used. Expressed in his avuncular way, it made people think and I'm sure won over many. It's quite a contrast with the counterproductive ways in which so many in our educational institutions today "call out" and "cancel" each other in such shrill fashion, often serving only to put the targets on the defensive and close their minds, not open them.   

Given Cruz's commitment to students, it's not surprising that his family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the UC Davis student scholarship "for legal access" fund that honors him and his wife.  

Cross-posted to UC Davis Faculty Blog.  

Thursday, May 6, 2021

A rural judge's commentary on Michele Statz's article on rural judging

The commentary, by the Honorable David E. Ackerson, was published a few days ago by the Rural Reconciliation project.  I'll provide just a short excerpt here:  

I was a Minnesota state trial judge of general jurisdiction for 36 ½ years in the same small town where I grew up. I have been retired for almost three years. So I have lots of stories, although nobody pays much attention anymore, and my jokes are apparently not as funny as they used to be. At the same time, I find my perspective refreshingly unfettered by any allegiances to the “system.”

Dr. Statz, from her title to her conclusion, speaks of “shared suffering” as a point of intimacy between rural judges and those individual parties, mostly indigent and pro-se, who come before the judges in the rural northern courts. The word “suffering” derives etymologically from the Latin “sufferre,” to bear from below. When Dr. Statz connects rural justice with “Subaltern Cosmopolitan Legality,” bottom-up rather than top-down, she is right on. Further: the etymology of “compassion” is suffer with. Thus, at the very base of her thesis of what makes rural justice work is this idea of compassion, of subjective, relational empathy and kindness. And more further: the same Latin root, “patientia” is plainly revealed in “patience”, which in my view is the better part of the wisdom, Sophia, that mates with the word of law, Logos, and thus in the manner of the iconic statue of Lady Justice, leads to true, restorative justice. This is deep truth, and I most wholeheartedly thank Dr. Statz for her work in beginning to reveal this truth in a professional, courageous, creative, and I submit ground-breaking manner.

Dr. Statz directly confronts the urban-centric hegemony and epistemology of the system and how they burden rural justice. She speaks incisively and eloquently of a judicial approach that she describes as commonsensical, ad hoc, deeply intimate; an emerging alternative to top-down hegemony, “born of shared suffering and power-filled resistance.” She endows her work with acute insight born of hard work, and in a most professional manner. Members of the legal profession are not naturally familiar with the scientific methodology of an “Anthropologist of Law” who teaches at a medical school, thus her scholarship gives to all of us rural judges and legal practitioners something beyond our own anecdotal experiences. She constructs a rock-solid foundational groundwork for unveiling the emergent blossoming of a restorative rural justice unfettered by the dictates of time-worn urban-centric models of how the legal system and the legal profession should work.

Here's the abstract for the Statz article, On Shared Suffering: Judicial Intimacy in the Rural Northland, published recently in the Law and Society Review

Rural state and tribal court judges in the upper US Midwest offer an embodied alternative to prevailing understandings of “access to justice.” Owing to the high density of social acquaintanceship, coupled with the rise in unrepresented litigants and the impossibility of most proposed state access to justice initiatives, what ultimately makes a rural courtroom accessible to parties without counsel is the judge. I draw on over four years of ethnographic fieldwork and an interdisciplinary theoretical framework to illuminate the lived consequences and global implications of judges' responses, which can be read as grassroots‐level creativity, as resistance, or simply as “getting by.”

The entirety of the judge's commentary--and, of course, Prof. Statz's article--are worth reading in their entirety.  

Rural America gets a big WSJ headline in opinion piece about wind energy

 Robert Bryce, host of the "Power Hungry Podcast," offers an opinion piece under the headline, "Rural America Gets Bad Vibrations From Big Wind."  Here's an excerpt where he gets to the rural explicitly, many paragraphs in:

Many rural governments that have implemented restrictions have been sued by wind developers. In December, Madison County, Iowa, famous for its covered wooden bridges, passed a measure that effectively bans new wind turbines. 

* * *

The fundamental constraint is land. Places like Scituate, Foster, Yates, and Madison County are fighting wind projects because, like people everywhere, they care about and want to protect their communities.

Paving rural America with forests of giant wind turbines and oceans of solar panels won’t solve climate change. It will, however, cost trillions of dollars, blight landscapes, kill untold numbers of bats and birds, make people sick, and lead to more economic pain in rural towns and counties.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Colorado nonprofit buys 24 local newspapers serving state's front range

The Colorado Sun, an online news outlet, announced the purchase today, which appears to be about exurban and suburban papers more than it is about rural ones:  

The Colorado Sun is now part owner and operator of 24 suburban newspapers in the Denver metro area.

The Sun has partnered with a new nonprofit called the National Trust for Local News, which is using this endeavor with us as a pilot project to show that local and national funders can collaborate with local journalists to keep newspapers in local hands.

All too often these days, hedge funds are the first ones in line to buy newspapers, and no one wanted to see that happen. News is too important to be left to absentee owners who care only about double-digit profits, not the journalists and the communities they serve.

Together, The Sun and the National Trust have purchased Colorado Community Media, which has 24 weekly and monthly newspapers serving eight counties including and surrounding Denver. Some of these newspapers are more than 100 years old (the Golden Transcript alone is 153 years old), and they range from Castle Rock to Brighton, Evergreen to Arvada, Parker to Denver’s Washington Park and beyond. Check out the new site coloradonewsconservancy.com for further details. You’ll also see a full list of newspapers later in this column.

* * *

Jerry and Ann Healey, the owner-publishers of Colorado Community Media, have done a terrific job of ensuring that these newspapers produce the accurate information readers need to be informed citizens and engaged members of their communities.

Nearing retirement, they reached out in hopes of keeping these newspapers in local hands. We’re thrilled that it all came together, and we’re looking forward to doing great work together.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Closing California's digital divide

Many readers will be familiar with the “digital divide,” or the gulf that divides those who have modern internet access from those that do not, and how rurality is a factor in the lack of access for many Californians

There is bipartisan movement at the national level to close the divide. But why does this gap persist in California, and what is the state doing to support its rural residents needing reliable, modern internet connections?

Unserved communities are found in urban and rural areas, but their difficulties in accessing high-speed internet have different causes. Urban households tend to have the infrastructure in place but run into affordability issues. In contrast, rural areas’ barrier to broadband access stems from a lack broadband of infrastructure altogether. Income also plays a role in access to internet connected devices. Across the board, rural areas tend to have less access to broadband than urban areas. This divide widens as internet speed increases.

In rural areas, the main barriers to broadband internet access come from the difficulty of building infrastructure in remote locations, internet service providers’ (ISPs) lack of interest in building said infrastructure, and difficulty in displacing entrenched incumbent internet providers.

Funding currently exists for rural areas to build internet infrastructure through the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). The CASF provides funding to unserved areas, which are defined as an area that does not have an ISP offering downstream speeds of at least 6 megabits per second (Mbps) and upstream speeds of at least 1 Mbps. These speeds are benchmarks from 1990s-era internet speeds, insufficient for many modern web-based communication apps, especially when multiple users are using the same internet connection.

Current law requires the CASF to fund broadband infrastructure projects of 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps. Though these speeds are faster than the “underserved” benchmark, they are still insufficient because most streaming video applications (including remote learning, telehealth, and video conferencing) require speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. Downstream and upstream refer to the rates at which an internet-connected machine can receive and send data, respectively.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) introduced S.B. 1130, a bill that sought to increase high-speed internet access for Californians by expanding the number of areas and households eligible for CASF funding to build broadband infrastructure. Though the bill died, in no small part to opposition from cable companies, Sen. Gonzalez introduced S.B. 4 this year.  S.B.4 has more modest goals than S.B. 1130 and an improved ability for the CASF to collect revenue. Where S.B. 4 is modest, other bills seek to fill in the gaps S.B. 1130 would have filled.

S.B. 4 would redefine “unserved” as an area that does not have access to facility-based ISP offering speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. The redefinition would expand the number of communities eligible for CASF grants who previously were not considered unserved. Projects seeking a CASF grant would be required to deploy infrastructure capable of providing speeds of 100 Mbps downstream and 20 Mbps upstream, or the Federal Communication Committee’s most current speed standard, whichever is faster.

Cable companies opposed S.B. 1130 last year, contending that the bill would divert CASF funds away from rural communities behind because money will go towards improving existing infrastructure in urban areas. The assertion that there will only be projects done in urban areas is premised on the assumption that ISPs alone will be taking on infrastructure projects. ISPs base this assumption on their historical behavior of forgoing infrastructure build-outs in rural areas due to low return on investments.

The proposed changes to the CASF could improve broadband access in rural areas by incentivizing infrastructure development where it remains unbuilt. The bill would create a bond program for local governments to borrow long-term, low-interest loans to develop fiber optic infrastructure.

Further bolstering rural communities’ ability to access funding for fiber optic infrastructure projects is Senator Patricia Bates’ (R-Laguna Niguel) S.B. 732. The bill would create the multi-billion dollar Rural Broadband Infrastructure Fund, to be used for broadband infrastructure projects of at least 100 Mbps upstream and 100 Mbps downstream speeds in underserved rural communities. The bill defines underserved rural communities as those without a facility-based (i.e. non-satellite-based) broadband provider offering broadband service at speeds exceeding 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.

These high speeds may be especially useful in rural areas where laying fiber optic cables is exceedingly difficult because the infrastructure would facilitate fiber to short range wireless towers.

Without the private sector’s single-minded focus on quarterly profits and with a mandate to serve their communities, local governments and co-ops are well situated to bring future-proof broadband to unserved areas. Both bills could also increase competition in the ISP market by giving smaller internet providers, local governments, and co-ops to access CASF funds when building out last-mile infrastructure to rural communities.

We will continue to monitor the status of these bills. While the divide remains to be bridged, it is at least heartening to see state legislators from ostensibly metro areas keeping the interests of rural people at the front.