Blocking rural broadband

Blocking rural broadband

Louisiana will soon be the first state to receive federal funding to bring high-speed internet to rural areas under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. State leaders triumphantly announced the $2.9 million grant as they gathered in Alexandria this week for a Broadband Summit. Meanwhile, in Baton Rouge, activists from northeast Louisiana were protesting what they see as efforts by local cable monopolies to block broadband access in their impoverished region. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Wesley Muller reports that 26 of the state’s 67 rural broadband grants are threatened by big cable companies: 

Louisiana’s Delta Region, economically depressed and majority-Black, has become the focus of efforts to close the so-called “digital divide” as the region has some of the worst internet access in the state, according to the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband coverage map, which shows zero East Carroll Parish residents having access to 1 gigabit internet speeds as of June 2021.  Delta Interfaith, a local advocacy group, spent the last two years conducting research and gathering data on the lack of internet access in East Carroll. Delta Interfaith’s Laura Arvin said the group studied customers’ bills and ran numerous speed tests that revealed current internet providers were charging premium prices for premium broadband speeds that customers were not receiving. 

Gig workers are tired of waiting
Many gig economy workers hoped the Biden administration would push the companies they work for to classify them as employees rather than independent contractors, a move that would bring better pay and benefits. But nearly two years into the Biden presidency there’s been little action from the White House. The New York Times’s Kellen Browning and Michael D. Shear explain gig workers’ frustration with the deadlock in Washington.

Enforcement of existing labor laws has not been notably beefed up. And the president’s nominee to lead the Labor Department’s enforcement division was voted down by the Senate, including by several Democrats. The administration’s plans to rewrite regulations have not materialized, in part because of court rulings, while Democratic efforts to change the law in Congress have stalled. “There is a strong sense that the promise of what could have been has not been met,” said Veena Dubal, a professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of Law who has argued that drivers deserve to be treated as employees. “It’s not surprising, but very disappointing.”

Cash is an effective safety net
The policy of guaranteed income – providing people with monthly payments of no-strings-attached cash – can have life-changing benefits for people with low incomes. This is especially true because the U.S. safety net can be, by design, extremely complex and punitive. Katie Fleischer of Ms. Magazine explains the benefits of new universal guaranteed income programs that provide unrestricted cash grants to people struggling against poverty.

Offering low-income families unrestricted cash means that the recipients can make financial decisions based on what’s best for their families, and give them the flexibility to cover emergencies and make long-term plans. MMT recipients have used their monthly payments to go back to school, find stable housing, escape predatory cycles of debt, and start their own businesses.

The real cost of climate change 
The economic toll of climate change is undeniable as ever strengthening storms, floods and droughts become more common. But the price that each additional ton of carbon dioxide levies on society is much higher than the figure the federal government currently uses to guide climate policy, according to a new analysis by the journal Nature. The Washington Post’s Dino Grandoni and Brady Dennis report on the paper’s findings and explain the social cost of carbon:

The research team’s key finding: Each additional ton of carbon dioxide that cars, power plants and other sources add to the atmosphere costs society $185 — more than triple the federal government’s current figure. “The bottom line is that our results show that when you fully update the social cost of carbon methodology to the state of the science, it suggests that the existing estimates that are in use by the federal government are vastly underestimating the harm,” said Kevin Rennert, a research fellow at the think tank Resources for the Future and a co-author of the paper.

Number of the Day
315,000 – Number of jobs the U.S. economy added in August. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)