Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Our team was honored to be selected for 11 presentations at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting this year in Boston. The CPHLR researchers presented on a variety of subjects, spanning the broad range of work we do at the Center each day: opioids and harm reduction, reproductive rights and abortion law, COVID-19 mitigation policies, firearm violence prevention, and strengthening public health authority and workforce capacity. Because not everyone has the privilege of attending APHA, we're bringing some of our presentations to you in a few installments.  

In this session, moderated by Lindsay Cloud, law and policy analyst Adam Herpolsheimer participated in a roundtable discussion focused on legal epidemiology, policy surveillance, and quantitative analysis in public health law. The discussion covered a wide range of public health topics including police accountability, medical error and malpractice liability, obesity legislation public restrooms, infant formula and more. 

Adam presented research from our ongoing project on state preemption laws. They specifically focused on municipal broadband preemption, arguing that access to the internet is a human right. 

Access to the internet has become foundational for communication, knowledge production, progress, and everything in between. This access is systematically necessary for inclusion in the public markets of both commerce and speech. To withhold this functional requirement is tantamount to excluding one from civil society. Thus, access to the internet is a human right, and a human right with vast public health consequences. 
Through policy surveillance, the CPHLR research team systematically analyzed laws across the United States that preempt localities from regulating municipal broadband. This project highlights key features that include the breadth of preemption and the types of legal hurdles enacted within each jurisdiction.  

Currently, 22 states have varying degrees of barriers, being lessened in some cases and traverse in others, in place that limit state and local governments from providing affordable and accessible internet to their citizens. While only ten of those states explicitly preempt localities from providing municipal broadband, the remaining 12 have enacted obstacles that make the provision of municipal broadband nearly impossible. 
Removing the legal hurdles that keep governments from enacting municipal broadband is only the first step on the path toward universal internet access. While many localities and some states have enacted legislation tasked with providing municipal broadband, outside of the United States, some nations provide access to the internet as a public utility. This begs the question as to whether universal access to the internet can be accomplished through municipal broadband networks or if a federal solution is required. 
This presentation explained the legal landscape of statewide municipal broadband laws, showcase recent trends in state preemption of local municipal broadband policies, and describe how to move forward towards accessible and affordable internet for all.