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Does Internet Serve the People?
The leadership can’t have it both ways

The legislative session is now in the second half and bills are being heard in the second house if not referred to Ways and Means, with a few trailers. Those trailers are in committees that are exempt from deadline rules.

The General Government committees have their hands full trying to keep their story straight on use of the internet – it’s good enough for legislative hearings, but lacks for virtual learning and the underserved.

Senator Dallas Heard (R-Polk) spoiled a unanimous yes vote on the House floor. His reasoning is, “The Constitution of the State of Oregon clearly states that ‘The deliberations of each house, of committees of each house or joint committees and of committees of the whole, shall be open...’ This provision was put in place to ensure accountability and transparency to the people of the state that their Legislature was working in their best interest. The virtual format that is being used does not provide for an honest, open, and transparent discussion on the matters of this state. We are seeing just how discriminatory these virtual sessions can be! The Majority Party has created a system that if you cannot afford internet, you cannot be a part of the discussions. This “Pay to Play” approach is NOT the Oregon way. Between this and the heartbreaking examples of the elder and economically depressed members in our society struggling and getting frustrated over their challenges navigating this virtual environment, it cannot honestly be said that we are doing the peoples work. Additionally, the Governors restrictions and closure of the state have caused traditionally public places that would provide internet and support to said individuals be inaccessible.”

While the leadership tries to justify the virtual testimony process is open to all, the State Treasure, Tobias Read, said: “A recent study of the Oregon Broadband Advisory Council found that nearly 26% of Oregon’s urban households are considered “underserved.” The study also revealed dismal numbers with respect to low-cost access to broadband in tribal lands. In fact, in five of nine of our tribal communities, fewer than 30% of residents have access to low-cost broadband, and in two of the five, no residents have such access… Clearly these numbers are unacceptable, in light of widespread usage of broadband across our economy and culture.”

KGW 8 reports that “Rebecca Gibbons, the broadband and digital inclusion manager for the City of Portland, said before the pandemic, at least 65,000 families didn’t have internet connection in their homes. Because of the hardships associated with the pandemic, that number is expected to have grown.”

Broadbandnow reports: “Oregon hovers in the middle ground in terms of internet connectivity as the 34th most well-connected state nationwide… A wired internet connection capable of 25 Mbps speeds is not available to 301,000 people in Oregon.”

The leadership can’t have it both ways and remain credible. Internet or not, Senator Heard makes his point, “The ‘People’s Work’ should be considered an essential service and there for accessible in person. Because the people are still being denied their constitutional right to participate and lobby their legislature in an open manner, I cannot legitimize this session with a yes vote no matter the merit of the bill, and therefore had to vote no.”


--Donna Bleiler

Post Date: 2021-04-25 09:53:15Last Update: 2021-04-25 10:07:15



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