CWA to White House Broadband Opportunity Council: No favoritism to labor law violators like T-Mobile

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) filed comments to the Obama Administration’s Broadband Opportunity Council (BOC), a cross-agency initiative that aims to stimulate broadband investment in federal programs. CWA’s comments called for the expansion of the Lifeline program to include broadband and advocated for policies to support good jobs for telecommunications workers.

CWA emphasized that broadband investment and expansion must not be at the cost of telecommunications workers. By supporting high-road employment policies and ending government rewards for companies like T-Mobile that violate our labor laws, the Administration can ensure communications technology of the 21st century is deployed, operated, and maintained in a way that’s fair to the workers making it happen.

The comments highlighted a parallel between the telecommunications industry and the wider American economy. In a 2013 speech, President Obama said, “the combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American Dream, our way of life, and what we stand for around the globe.”

He’s right, and those dangerous trends are present in the telecommunications industry, where workers’ earnings are flat and have not kept pace with workers’ productivity. In the 22 years between 1990 and 2012, productivity in the telecom industry increased by 66 percent, while workers’ compensation for that productivity increased by only seven percent.

CWA noted that there are many ways the Executive Branch can integrate broadband into other federal programs to support the needs of communities seeking broadband investment. CWA offered specific suggestions:

Important initiatives include policies to incentivize high-speed broadband deployment and adoption in public housing; initiatives that build on the expanded E-rate program to spur fiber deployment to schools and libraries; policies that incorporate broadband solutions into environmental protection and energy conservation programs; full funding for implementation of a nationwide, interoperable public safety network as well as other public safety purposes; promoting telehealth solutions consistent with provision of quality health care; and improving public participation in government through online tools, among many others.

In agreement with the Administration’s statement that “broadband is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity,” CWA reiterated its support of expanding the Lifeline program to include broadband:

We know the route to closing the broadband adoption gap: expanding Lifeline low-income subsidies to broadband to make the cost of broadband more affordable; programs to provide low-cost computers and tablets to low-income families; and digital literacy programs rooted in the needs of families and communities. The richest nation in the world must take bold action to ensure that every person, regardless of income or geography, has affordable Internet access and the computing device needed to participate in vital online activities.

The Administration is in a position to encourage broadband development and bring high-speed Internet access to all, while at the same time combating the fundamental threat of inequality and providing good jobs moving into the future.

CWA’s comments to Broadband Opportunity Council (CWA, June 10, 2015)

Judge Finds T-Mobile Guilty of Maintaining Illegal Corporate Policies Against Workers Across the US (CWA, Mar. 19, 2015)

Remarks by President on Economic Mobility (White House, Dec. 13, 2015)

Presidential Memorandum - Expanding Broadband Deployment and Adoption by Addressing Regulatory Barriers and Encouraging Investment and Training (White House, Mar. 23, 2015)