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Tweeting and forwarding the way to a Wiscnet reprieve

In the wee hours last Thursday morning, the Wisconsin Assembly passed a revised budget proposal that provides a 2-year reprieve for Wiscnet and other key telecommunications activities in the state. Later that day, the Senate ratified the legislation and it now awaits Gov. Walker's signature.

John Pederson, whose blog chronicled the day-by-day story that began less than two weeks earlier, saluted the grass- and net-roots effort that led to the reversal:

You wrote. You called. You visited the capital. You tweeted. You forwarded. You spread the word. You defended our cooperative with a spirit and tenacity that was appropriate, passionate and compelling. Your willingness to show your support made a real difference and we will always be grateful for that. Thank you.

EDUCAUSE was part of this effort, along with Internet2. The legislative reversal did not come easily, however, and strong disagreements over the final version remain:

Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, praised the budget for ending the structural deficit. "This budget is going to help Wisconsin move forward," Kaufert said.

Rep. Chris Danou, D-Trempealeau, said the budget puts the state "on a path to become another Pakistan." Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, begged to differ, saying it's more like "Wississippi."

Ars Technica has one of many good summaries.

While the Wisconsin legislation was unique to that state, it seems to be part of a trend, perhaps orchestrated and perhaps not.
The trend targets the National Broadband Initiative and various examples of public and public-private networks in states from coast to coast. One of the most prominent examples is North Carolina, where a recently enacted law drastically limits cities' ability to install their own networks. Before passage of that bill, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn made a statement saying that the legislation would be "a significant barrier to broadband deployment" and acknowledging the trend:

Regrettably, North Carolina isn’t the only state considering such legislation. My home state of South Carolina has similar legislation pending, and the state of Arkansas is contemplating a complete ban on publicly-owned broadband facilities. I fear that preventing local governments from investing in broadband is counter-productive and will impede the nation from accomplishing the Plan’s goal of providing broadband access to every American and community anchor institution.

A good source of information on the progress of and roadblocks to public participation in state and municipal networking is Community Broadband Networks. And for an accessible metaphor -- based on neighbors collaborating on the addition of decks to their houses -- of the pros and cons, see this item from Jeff Bartig. EDUCAUSE will continue to monitor and report on these issues.

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