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I just talked to one of the aides for one of North Carolina's U.S.
 Representatives
, Mel Watt, who was telling me how little they have heard from advocacy groups,
especially relating to concerns about NREN, potential diminution of Internet
access, etc.
He was receptive to the point that with the telecos in charge of the NSF
backbone, the costs could easily rise to support expansion of ATM or
whatever, and NSF will not be able to adequately fund maintaining access
or even expanding access to community networks.
That said, he wondered out loud where community-based groups were who might have
an interest in modifying or otherwise having an impact on Boucher's
legislation.
I argued that the very people who stand to benefit most from ubiquity with
networking also are the most vulnerable and unable to afford access on their
own.
They are not hearing about that concern from anywhere. If they are not, I
suspect most of the hill is not. If you have that concern, if you believe that
teleco ownership of the NSF backbone, totally unsubsidized by the government,
could drive up prices and crowd regular people out, then you need to let
your representative know IN CAPITAL LETTERS what you think.
House members, I think partly because they run every two years, are much more
constituent-sensitive than senators. Watt's people, at least, seem to agree
that community networks are a good thing, promote more access and better-
informed and educated constituents. So they think networks are a good idea.
Once informed that Boucher's stuff could ultimately have a negative impact
when the actual intent of the "highway" is a positive impact, he seemed
genuinely concerned.
So yhere you have it.
 
Steve Snow
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p.s.: my thinking is that Boucher's bill is too far into the pipeline to be
altered significantly, though I may be wrong about that. I was suggesting
that they consider altering the legislation to allow bandwidth setasides
specifically for community networks. I have no idea if that was the right
thing to do, but it was what I thought of.