PNS Daily Newscast - April 26, 2019 

Former V.P. Joe Biden launches his presidential campaign, warning that Trump is "a danger to the nation's character." Also on our Friday rundown: Six 2020 Dems to speak at a weekend forum in Vegas. Plus, thousands of Navajo homes get electricity for the first time.

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Report: Community Internet Better for Protecting Privacy

A new study shows people might be able to regain more control of their privacy though community-owned internet providers. (Geralt/Pixabay)
A new study shows people might be able to regain more control of their privacy though community-owned internet providers. (Geralt/Pixabay)
April 16, 2018

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As Congress considers remedies for large-scale privacy breaches by Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, a recent report suggests that local municipalities could play a key role in protecting consumers.

The American Civil Liberties Union study said if cities and counties build out their own broadband networks, they could ensure privacy protections and keep the internet open for all residents who depend on access for health care, employment and other essential services. Jay Stanley is the report's lead author.

"The internet's really become a necessity in our lives, like water and electricity,” Stanley said. “And if you don't have control over your internet because some far-away company is giving you bad service and it's the only choice, that's a big problem - not only for you personally, but it's a failure of democracy."

Last year, Congress repealed privacy regulations prohibiting internet providers, such as Verizon and Comcast, from selling users' data without their consent. The Federal Communications Commission also repealed so-called net neutrality regulations that prohibits companies from creating slow lanes for specific content.

Critics of municipal broadband say it would create an uneven playing field for industry because cities already own the land needed to lay fiber, and they cite the high costs of building systems from scratch. More than 20 state legislatures have passed bills backed by telecom groups restricting or banning municipal broadband.

Stanley admitted creating a network is a big commitment. But he said his research shows that hundreds of counties, cities and towns across the U.S. have already found the investment has paid off with faster service and lower rates.

"They can do it the same way that cities do with sewer systems and electric systems, and with sidewalks and roads,” he said. “And cities know how to do long-term infrastructure investments, they know how to finance them, and they know how to build them."

Stanley added local governments, charged with serving all residents, are also in a better position to connect traditionally under-served rural areas, low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. By one measure, half of rural West Virginians have poor access to broadband, largely because those areas are seen as unprofitable by corporate providers.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV