On the first Monday of every month, a committee of Fahe Members representing over 20% of our 50+ Members meets for an hour to discuss the biggest issues facing our communities. So far, the Big Picture Policy Committee (BPPC) has tackled questions like how to increase broadband access and affordability and how to create jobs through investments to make homes livable.
The committee Members are from all around Appalachia. Their lives and communities are impacted by these issues every day. The committee presents a space for Fahe Members to think beyond the day-to-day challenges, looking to the bigger picture and how our communities and economies can work better.
The BPPC Members have lifetimes of experience serving their communities. They can look past partisan differences to acknowledge what needs to be done, and what the best options are for achieving that goal. Focusing on issue-based advocacy creates unity around shared experiences and concerns, and brings out the best solutions.
One product of the committee’s time and effort is its broadband policy position. A lack of reliable and affordable broadband access is a widespread issue not only in Appalachia, but in cities and rural areas across the country. Rural and tribal areas have less access to broadband than urban areas, and broadband in the United States is more expensive than in most other countries. The committee came up with a policy— concise, easy to understand, based on research, and can provide direct suggestions to lawmakers and policy influencers. At its core, the policy position is derived from the lived experiences and expertise of the Fahe Members.
The committee’s work is an exercise in deliberative democratic decision-making. Committee Members weigh in on the pros and cons of different options and listen to the views of their co-committee Members. While increasing broadband access is a national issue, local leaders know what solutions will work in their communities. Incorporating a wide range of viewpoints can help derive policy that works on both the national and local levels. When more voices are brought to the table, we can achieve more equitable policy outcomes. As the committee continues its work in the New Year, it hopes to address a fresh slate of issues with the same attention to detail, local expertise, and focus on productive discussion and compromise.