SOMERVILLE SEEKS MEMBERS AND ADVISORS FOR INTERNET ACCESS TASK FORCE

The group will look at strategies to increase internet access and support net neutrality.

SOMERVILLE – The City of Somerville is forming an Internet Access Task Force to explore options to preserve and expand affordable and neutral internet service across the City. Community members interested in serving as members are encouraged to apply. Area experts willing to serve as occasional or one-time advisors are also sought for a wide range of knowledge areas from public utilities management and small cell technology to federal communications policy.

Task Force members will meet with experts, conduct research, and participate in discussions to inform recommendations they will submit to the City. Areas for consideration may include, but are not limited to, increasing internet service provider competition, establishing a municipal or quasi-public internet provider, and developing policies that encourage equitable access and service.

“Internet access has become a necessity of modern life,” said Mayor Joseph Curtatone. “The internet provides access to job opportunities, educational resources, instant communication, and a wealth of knowledge that everyone should be able to access. Through the Internet Access Task Force’s work, we hope to find innovative new ways to expand internet service and remove cost barriers for our residents.”

The Task Force will also explore ways to encourage or require net neutrality in Somerville.

“With recent attacks on net neutrality from Washington, it’s more important than ever that we look at what we can do locally to preserve equitable access to the internet,” said Mayor Curtatone. “Creating a tiered system or throttling content will close off parts of the internet to those who can’t afford the extra cost harming individuals, businesses, our economy, and, ultimately the free exchange of information that undergirds our democracy.”

The Task Force will meet at least once a month for approximately a year to work on a series of recommendations. Outside of meetings there may be research or reading for members to complete and/or additional subcommittee meetings. Advisors to the Task Force will be called on to consult in their area of expertise as needed. The Task Force will also be jointly staffed by the City’s IT, Communications, and SomerStat Innovation and Analytics departments.

Community members committed to equitable and neutral internet access are encouraged to apply to serve on the Task Force as members. Experts willing to serve as advisors are also encouraged from outside Somerville as well. Areas of expertise that would be helpful among the membership and advisors, but that are not required for membership, include knowledge or experience in utility/Internet equity initiatives; related legal or policy experience at the local, state, and federal level; fiber optic broadband cabling; utility servicing; the mechanics and management of municipal utilities; the broadband industry; municipal wireless; commercial wireless; procurement; closed networks; small cell technology; public-private partnerships; 5g; and other related areas.

Community members who would like to apply to be on the Task Force should send a brief statement of interest and information on any relevant qualifications to mackerman@somervillema.gov by Friday, February 23. Persons interested in serving as advisors may send their information on a rolling basis to mackerman@somervillema.gov as well. While there is no deadline for advisors to respond, early replies are welcome.

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