Small Businesses Wait for Help While Amazon Profits From Pandemic (Episode 99)

Date: 30 Apr 2020 | posted in: Building Local Power, Retail | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

In this episode of Building Local Power, Chris, John, Stacy, and Jess discuss the bumpy rollout of federal relief funding for America’s small businesses, which are facing an unprecedented crisis in the COVID-19 pandemic. Stacy offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the legislation to help small businesses was crafted, and explains why some large franchises, including chain restaurants and hotels, benefitted from the initial round of relief funding, while many small businesses did not. Looking beyond the immediate future, Chris, John, Stacy, and Jess speculate on what the recovery process might look like for different sectors.

Their conversation also touches on:

  • The role community banks play in supporting local businesses.
  • The recent revelation that Amazon uses individual seller data to create competing products.
  • How the pandemic has created an opportunity to shape the energy sector for years to come.
  • The many resources ILSR has created for small businesses — and individuals — weathering the pandemic.


“Some of the biggest bookstores in the country… are in serious trouble and if they collapse, if the wholesalers that supply them go under, we could see — it’s like an ecological event, like a bleaching of coral, you could have a real domino effect. I’m so heartbroken about it, that I have a hard time, even really talking about it in those terms, but it is an extinction level event, potentially.”


Jess: Hello, and welcome to the Building Local Power podcast. I’m Jess Del Fiacco, the communications manager here at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I’m joined virtually today by the institutes co-directors, John Farrell and Stacy Mitchell, as well as Chris Mitchell, who also works here.
 Chris Mitchell: Couldn’t keep me out.
Jess: And we are very scattered today. So where are you guys at?
 Chris Mitchell: Saint Paul.
John Farrell: In my basement in Minneapolis.
 Stacy Mitchell: I’m in my tiny two-room office in Portland, Maine.
John Farrell: Wait a second Jess, where are you recording from?
Jess: As usual, my tiny bedroom closet in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
 Chris Mitchell: Lovely jacket on the door there.
Jess: It gets warm with all the clothes. Okay. So today we’re going to have a conversation about the state of small businesses in our country and the federal government’s response to support businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stacy, can you talk a little bit about the rollout of the federal funding for small businesses and some of the issues that came up?
 Stacy Mitchell: Yeah. As many people probably know, Congress is part of the big relief bill authorized about $350 billion in forgivable loans to be made to small businesses through the small business administration’s, a network of banks. The good news was that this was forgivable loans, so businesses that spend that money on payroll, and rent, and mortgage, can get all of that part of the loan forgiven, which is what we were calling for. The bad news is that they decided to run this through this network of banks. They didn’t provide anywhere near enough money and the SBA network of banks is far too rickety to actually get money out quickly and easily. So we have seen all kinds of reports of craziness at the banks problems, businesses waiting in line, crashing websites and on, and on, and on. And meanwhile of course, their livelihood, the business that they’ve spent their life building is hanging in the balance.
 Chris Mitchell: Now, that’s a Small Business Administration, SBA. Stacy, I’m curious if you could just tell folks a little bit about the prep work you did and then the front row seat you had, just so people have a sense of how to ground your comments?
 Stacy Mitchell: As governments were shutting things down in March, and it was becoming clear that businesses across the country were going to see their revenue just completely flat line, like never happened before, this is not a recession, it’s something entirely different. As that was becoming apparent, we moved really quickly to assemble a network of about 15 small business organizations at the national and local level that we’ve worked with before, and we’re able to provide some real leadership in bringing those groups together around five policy principles. In particular, we called for grants, not loans. The businesses needed to be able to bridge this crisis and that if they were overloaded with debt that was going to kill them later. We also called for the programs that Congress passed, not to further exacerbate concentration of monopoly power, like basically you shouldn’t give big businesses a ton of money and screw small businesses.
 Stacy Mitchell: So we then worked with a variety of partner organizations, AFL-CIO, Americans for Financial Reform, Center for Popular Democracy, and in particularly the Main Street Alliance to advocate with lawmakers for our proposals. What we had said was that this money really needs to be much larger, my calculation was that we needed something like one and a half trillion dollars just to cover businesses in the most effected sectors and just to cover businesses with fewer than a 100 employees. The existing program is up to 500 employees and has a bunch of loopholes and so putting 350 billion down initially and now they’ve added another 300 billion, we’re still not in the ballpark of the scale of what’s needed.
 Stacy Mitchell: Then the other piece of our proposal that’s different from what Congress passed, is that we said that this cash needs to go out directly from treasury, the IRS collects taxes from all the businesses in the country and they can push things out through that same way in order to reach all of the businesses. The advantage of that is it would have been quick, we would have made sure that all businesses had access as opposed to the very patchwork, messy situation where a lot of businesses especially very small businesses and minority owned businesses are being sidelined.
John Farrell: Is it worth asking you a question Stacy, about why that happened? I don’t know if it’s worth getting into because there’s so much more meat here to talk about.
 Stacy Mitchell: About why Congress went with the SBA program?
John Farrell: Right.
 Stacy Mitchell: It’s hard to say. There was a proposal to do something closer to what we had called for by three democratic senators, but they didn’t actually draft legislation and I honestly, I don’t have a clear view on how hard they pushed for that. The Senate of course is Republican controlled and Mitch McConnell, the majority leader told Marco Rubio who chairs the small business committee, “You figure this out and come up with a plan.” And Rubio apparently sat in a room for 12-hour days and interacted with different senators and they wrote this policy.
 Stacy Mitchell: I think one reason that they ended up going with the SBA versus treasury, is that the small business committee actually has jurisdiction over the SBA, they don’t have jurisdiction over the treasury, so in a weird way, it may have been a kind of odd jurisdictional issue. But at this point we still believe that a program through treasury is necessary, it’s sort of, your stove was on fire and you didn’t grab the fire extinguisher right away when you should have and now your whole kitchen’s on fire, but you still need to grab the fire extinguisher and so we pretty much think that still needs to happen. We keep the PPP program going and we fund it, but we also need this bigger injection of cash.
 Chris Mitchell: One of my total healthy obsessions, is how people will often think something was an accident or was unintended, and nobody could have foreseen that those massive franchises would come out ahead of small businesses with this program. But I get the impression Stacy, that they is someone did foresee this problem before the bill is signed.
John Farrell: You mean the problem known as the Shake Shack problem, Chris?
 Chris Mitchell: Right. The Shake Shack problem, which is not the shake weight problem, that’s opposite ends.
 Stacy Mitchell: Yeah. I prefer to think of it as the Ruth Chris problem. I don’t know.
 Chris Mitchell: You’re a big fan of Steak Houses?
 Stacy Mitchell: Yeah, I’m the vegetarian who likes the Steak Houses. Yeah. So we were… through the weekend, the Congress was passing the CARES Act, we were looking and providing feedback on drafts of the bill as they were being worked through Congress, so we were seen one draft after another and enabled to comment on the small business provisions. Then we got the finalized draft of what they passed, and lo and behold, there is a new provision in there that wasn’t in there before and I caught it, and others like, did I imagine as well. That it said that, businesses in this particular industry classification can apply if they have no more than 500 employees at a location and the classification was for restaurants and hotels.
 Stacy Mitchell: So you could have a chain like Shake Shack and if your individual locations are under 500 employees, each of those locations can apply. That was shoved in there at the last minute by the hotel and restaurant lobby association and clearly they have a kind of access and an ability to write legislation in such a way that other people have no ability to fight back.
Jess: I’m curious about the role that community lenders and local banks played in the distribution of that money compared to the big banks?
 Stacy Mitchell: Yeah. So community banks, which are small locally headquartered banks. They’re a small share of our overall banking system, depending on how you measure there… it may be of as much as 20%, but really no more than that. So they are a small share of the sector, but they provide a really disproportionate share of small business lending in normal times. They sprung into action many of them very early around this crisis, many began to collect information from their borrowers, many went out proactively to businesses in their communities and said, “We know something’s going to be coming through Congress. Let’s go ahead and get your documents in order,” and that kind of thing. So they were able to process a disproportionate share of these loans, they outperformed their size in a big way.
 Stacy Mitchell: Meanwhile, the big banks hemmed and hawed, Bank of America said, “Oh, we’re not going to lend to you unless you’re already borrowing from us.” City group couldn’t even get up its application process until the program was almost closed. What we learned is what ILSR has been saying for a long time that’s now been very vividly demonstrated, is that the problem with big banks is not just that they’re too big to fail and they create all this risk, it’s that they’re too big to actually succeed at what we need banks to do. They cannot actually make these loans in an effective way, they’re not good at doing small business lending, and so they fell down on the task in a big way.
 Stacy Mitchell: So I think what we’re going to see in ILSR is producing some analysis around this is that, States that have a large number of community banks were able to get far more of these loans out to businesses during the first few weeks of this program than States that don’t have very many community banks.
 Chris Mitchell: Stacy, I feel you have to deal with something that I’m frequently railing on, which is elected officials that will talk about how important something is over and over again, while their actions totally belie that. In broadband, it’s elected officials saying, this is the most important thing for our future, the kids, everyone has a job, everyone needs this, and no, I’m not really going to do much about it, that’s Comcast job. I can’t tell you the last time I heard elected officials that wasn’t gushing over small business. How is it that they just get left out of these consequences? Are these elected officials actually lying, do they just not know what they’re doing, how does this happen?
 Stacy Mitchell: It is incredibly true. Small business is in the rhetoric like Apple pie, it is right up there. All politicians across the spectrum talk about small businesses and how great they are and then their actions completely go on the opposite way and that’s been true for decades now, and we’ve documented all kinds of ways in which that’s the case. It’s hard for me to know how to explain the behavior, I think on the part of Democrats, frankly, I think that they don’t fully understand small business, they don’t understand the scale of small business, they don’t understand how pivotal they are in the economy and within their industries.
 Stacy Mitchell: I think there’s a way in which Democrats think of small businesses kind of, sort of warm, and fuzzy, and nice to have, but not actually central to how innovation happens, employment, the wellbeing of communities, they don’t really understand. And I think Republicans maybe have a better grasp of some of those things, but ultimately, as a party have been very wedded to the fortunes of big business and so they do the interests of big business and that often means they’re doing things that are oppositional to what small businesses need.
 Chris Mitchell: Stacy, you testified in front of Congress, was it two months ago now? Something like that, about the power of these big companies. At the time, I actually thought it was a given, that everyone knew and expected that Amazon was just using data about how others on the platform sold things and they were using that to their advantage, and apparently Amazon said they weren’t doing that and now we found out they were. So I’m sort of amazed, that it’s the thing that you documented multiple times, you told Congress and they said, no, we don’t do that, but now they’ve admitted that they are doing it.
 Stacy Mitchell: That’s right. Last July, actually I testified before the house judiciary committee as part of their antitrust investigation into big tech. And before my panel testified, there was a panel of executives from the tech companies, including a guy named Nate Sutton who represented Amazon. And during his testimony, he was asked pointedly by representative Jaya Paul, who is from Seattle, about whether or not Amazon gathers up all this data, essentially spies on the companies that are selling on its platform and then uses that data to create competing products that compete directly against those companies. And Mr. Sutton insisted that that was not the case, and he said, “No, we don’t do that.” And the chairman of the committee interrupted him and said, “Let me remind you that you’re under oath.” Because when Sutton said this, there was an audible reaction in the room from people who follow Amazon were like, “What are you talking about? That’s obviously not the case.”
 Stacy Mitchell: So then Sutton, restated his answer in a very particular way and said, “Well we don’t use data on individual sellers, we use aggregate data. So across a bunch of sellers in a product category, we might be looking at that data. We don’t drill down and spy on one individual company.” So fast forward to today and The Wall Street Journal has really been earning its keep, they have a blockbuster story just posted this afternoon, in which they have interviews with over 20 former Amazon employees who said, “Oh yeah, we used individual seller data all the time.”
 Stacy Mitchell: Theoretically, Amazon had a fence, but they didn’t enforce the fence, there were all kinds of ways around it. So for example, they would get all of this detailed cost and sales data, on a product that was made by a small company, it was a thing you put in your car [inaudible 00:13:40] to organize stuff. And Amazon made one that looked just like it and based on using that data, and it was one of many examples in the article. But that is monopoly behavior, hence the desire to try to cover it up, hence the lying, and so now we have Amazon lying to Congress, we have perjury, we have monopoly behavior, and we have a very deep need to have Jeff Bezos called before the house judiciary committee to testify under oath about his company.
John Farrell: I want to add to just one little piece of color from your tweet thread about this Stacy, that I think really illustrates the lengths to which Amazon will go to pretend they are complying with the law but to not, but that it could be aggregating data from as few as two sellers. So all you need to have is one dummy seller on the platform that sells nothing, that you combine with literally any other seller and you now have two sellers in some category of which you can aggregate data, but really just get the data on the one that you want to steal the information from. So the fact that they are doing this in such a pathetically, non-transparent way is just really striking.
 Stacy Mitchell: That’s right. They say they have this fence, but the fence, as you know, is ridiculous because aggregated data can just be two sellers. Obviously, that doesn’t mask anything, especially when one of the sellers sells next to nothing of the product. And they have the number of specific examples in the article where companies are like, “Yeah, that’s my exact sales numbers. This supposedly aggregated data is my exact sales numbers.” And the other thing that’s really, sort of striking about it is that Amazon is basically in their statement to The Wall Street Journal, they’re looking for a fall guy, that’s what they mean. They’ve said, Oh no, we have fence, we’re now… Nobody’s allowed to do this, we’re undertaking an internal investigation, and so on and so forth. And it’s like, yeah, some employees are going to get fired. I’ve studied a lot of big companies, I’ve never studied one that is tightly controlled internally as Amazon. There’s no way that this was happening if it wasn’t the company’s intentions that it would happen.
Jess: I’m just going to jump in real quick and say, thanks to everyone for tuning into this episode of Building Local Power. If you’re enjoying this conversation or if you’re maybe feeling a little guilty about something you bought in Amazon recently, we hope you’ll consider donating to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. By doing so, you support this podcast as well as the many other resources that we make available on our website. To make a contribution, you can head on over to, that’s Thank you.
 Chris Mitchell: Is there any chance we’re going to see a tweet from the president saying, “Hey Jeff, I hear you got a fence problem.”
 Stacy Mitchell: Yeah. He has actually been calling for Bezos to testify about counterfeits. So yeah, we’ll see if he decides to chime in on this, somehow I don’t think he’s a Wall Street Journal of a reader, so maybe he’ll miss the news.
 Chris Mitchell: My head has been spinning a little bit, every time I feel I hear Stacy talk about this, I feel I have not appreciably grasps the danger that is facing small businesses right now. I feel most people, myself included, have this sense it’s going to be hard. We’re eventually going to come out of lockdown, businesses will have struggled, but fundamentally most of them will still be there. In part I feel that way because I can’t imagine an alternative and I’m just trying not to get emotional in some ways, but do you have any sense of what the world could look like?
 Stacy Mitchell: Yeah. I have had a very strong sense from what I said of the incredible peril, that small businesses are facing. I have had a really hard time with it, just the sort of sense of impending doom and grief, and working really hard these last few weeks to try to avert it, and not wanting to imagine. Frankly, what is the most likely scenario right now, [inaudible 00:17:49] policy intervention, because I really feel we have to keep pushing Congress to do something about this, but yeah. So there’s some survey data from the Main Street America and their surveys are sort of storefront businesses, so restaurants, retailers, hair salons, all the customer service businesses that lie in your streets, in your neighborhood, or in your town, and this is data that they gathered at the end of March, so we’re now almost a month away. And they found that one third of those businesses said that they would likely to close in one to two months and another third said that they would close in three to five months.
 Stacy Mitchell: So in five months we could have two thirds of all independent businesses gone and find… When we re-emerge in our cities, that’s just complete emptiness, the things like the independent bookstore sector, has collapsed. Some of the biggest bookstores in the country like Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, which are used to employ 300 people, is a bedrock of highly competitive online and in physical world, they’re in trouble. So even the biggest, most robust ones are in serious trouble and if they collapse, if the wholesalers that supply them go under, we could see, it’s like an ecological event, like a bleaching of coral, you could have a real domino effect. I’m so heartbroken about it, that I have a hard time, even really talking about it in those terms, but it is an extinction level event potentially.
Jess: This kind of brings me to the other part of this conversation that I wanted to get to, which will eventually get to like the recovery process and what that might look like. But I’m curious in the more immediate future, as we’re talking about in quotes, “Opening the economy again.” Do you have any sense on how we can do that in a way that is safe and will help those small businesses versus making some policy decision right now, snapping our fingers and saying, everybody go back outside, go out to eat, that would actually hurt them. People aren’t actually going to go back to restaurants right now, they’re not going to go to the bookstores, I’m just curious if you have thoughts on that?
 Stacy Mitchell: I think the reason, that the idea of simply having the government step in and say, “We are going to pick up your payroll, your core costs, your occupancy costs, for the foreseeable future,” is really important, because it’s basically freezing expenses for small businesses. They’ll have other expenses they will have to take out some level of loans, but basically we can say, we’re going to keep your location, yourself as a business owner, your employees intact through what is now an uncertain and long period of time in which we may be completely shut down and we may go off and on being shut down, there various things being talked about. That sort of a policy makes a lot of sense in terms of how the re-opening could occur. There are things right now that are important, my town, my city, here had actually told businesses that they couldn’t be in their stores at all, so they couldn’t even do curbside or shipping from their businesses because they wouldn’t even allow the staff to go in.
 Stacy Mitchell: They’ve now rescinded that policy as of just a few days ago and so independent retailers here are back to being able to do curbside pickup and shipping of goods, which is helpful. So I think we need to do that as an initial phase and there needs to be distancing inside among employees, and a real minimizing of employees, and masks, and sanitation, and all those other things, I think is important. But I feel that’s something that we can handle with a fairly minimal amount of risks, and we’re certainly doing it with grocery stores and the like, that’s a first phase of re-opening when we feel that’s the appropriate phase to be in. I think the next phase is that retail stores are allowed to re-open, but they have a limited number of customers that can be inside at any given time and also some additional measures around employee protections and the like. There’s a big difference between crowding into a bar, which I think is a real contagion problem. And someone browsing in a bookstore when there’s like two people in the bookstore.
 Chris Mitchell: Stacy, can I ask you about that? Because it strikes me that, that’s not actually a recovery for a restaurant. For instance, in which if they lose half their customers in their space, that’s not enough to make their numbers probably. So that would then require some level of ongoing assistance or just putting those places out of business, I’m guessing.
 Stacy Mitchell: Yeah. I’ve been mostly talking and thinking about retail stores in these comments. I think with restaurants, I feel I don’t have a clear sense, it raises more significant public health issues because, even if you space them apart, you still have people sitting whatever distance from other people for extended periods of time, they obviously won’t be wearing masks while they’re doing it, they’ll be talking and eating and so it seems to me that does raise some real questions and I’m not clear if we have good public health information about what that risk level is and if there’s a way to actually mitigate it or not.
 Stacy Mitchell: In the interim, one of the things that some cities have done is that they’ve allowed restaurants to do, not only curbside pickup a food, but also curbside pickup of liquor. As you know, restaurants make a lot of their money from alcohol sales, and so that’s one of the things that’s really hurt. So being able to sell a bottle of wine with a meal is really important, and that’s as simple policy change that cities can make right now.
Jess: So in the meantime Stacy, small businesses is looking for help or people looking to see how they can support their favorite local businesses. What resources is your team working on? What do we have available on our website for folks to check out?
 Stacy Mitchell: Yeah, we have a bunch of things. So if you go to ILSR and then click on the independent business initiative, you’ll find everything there, we even have a special COVID page. We have an infographic that you can share and put up as a poster about how to help your local businesses weather the COVID crisis. We also have a more detailed article about that, we have resources for business owners themselves, in terms of steps they can take to pivot to online and phone orders. We have… I think what is the largest collection of state, and local, and nonprofit, grant and loan programs, available to small businesses. We’ve got over 180 programs listed organized by location and we have an article that provides an overview of what the most important things that local and State governments can do and of course, you can also find all of our advocacy resources around what Congress needs to do.
Jess: Thanks, if you’re going to head off. Thanks for being here and then I’ll turn it over to Chris and John.
 Stacy Mitchell: Thanks Jess. Thanks Chris and John. Nice to see you all.
Jess: Okay. So as we look to a more long-term recovery strategies, I’d like to hear from both of you guys your thoughts on what that might look like for the world of renewable energy or broadband access?
John Farrell: Jess, I think what it’s really interesting about the energy sector right now, is the primary need and the urgent need, just like there is for small businesses, is to help individuals at home from having their utilities shut off. And this actually, really bridges both the work that Chris and I do around energy and broadband, that it’s all of these utilities are important at this time. It’s not just, heat for your home, electricity to run the devices that your kids might need to do schoolwork, or that you might need to work from home, but also the internet access that you need. So there’s been some really, unfortunate and stunning revelations about utilities cutting off people’s heat and power during this crisis, is the normal business operation and frankly, the one that I think we should all question whether or not it’s reasonable to cut off these essential services, so there’s a real reckoning happening on that front.
John Farrell: But there’s also a unique opportunity I think too, as we look forward coming out of this crisis, how do we find things to invest in that will support the economy? And one of the ideas that we’re floating is, how do we make a massive investment in rooftop solar? And it seems a little bit silly to talk about solar at a time like this when you know that people are struggling, for example, for protective equipment, for first responders, and for medical employees, or many other issues. But one of the upsides of solar is that it not only creates a lot of jobs, it’s labor intensive, but it does so in a very localized fashion and it pays back, in a way that few other investments do. Because every solar panel that’s put up produces electricity for 20, or 25, or 30, or more years.
John Farrell: So it’s a really interesting opportunity to make an investment that is good for the climate. You see all sorts of pictures floating around social media like the skylines of towns six months ago compared to now, the clean skies, we can get there. A lot of those emissions are the result of cars, if we powered cars with electricity and got that electricity from solar panels, that actually is how our atmosphere could look all the time. But also this is a great opportunity to help people where they’re feeling the pain in terms of financial crisis, by reducing their energy bills. And we can focus specifically on those hurting the most like low income folks and small businesses.
 Chris Mitchell: And if I can just amplify that for a second, it seems to me that we are going to be powering our cars with electricity from roofs, the question is just when? And the longer we delay it, the longer it’ll take us to get the benefits from it. John, I feel this is where the part of your work that I just love the most is, trying to get people to understand that one of the biggest regulatory games that’s being played right now, is by monopoly utilities who are trying to figure out how to build the last couple of gas factories and things like that, but also be owned everything moving forward, so that they get the benefits of this technological shift rather than us.
John Farrell: I should add actually, Chris, speaking of that happening. There’s actually a really concerted effort right now, by what’s called a dark money group, a nonprofit organization whose funding sources are hidden from the public. They is… put a petition in front of The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, that would essentially destroy the rooftop solar market, by making it illegal or making it financially unfeasible to do rooftop solar in every single State. It is no coincidence that they’ve timed this for a period in which we are focused on an intense crisis across our entire country.
John Farrell: But this dark money group has a history of trying to fight ways that individuals can exercise their own solar rights, can get power from their own rooftop and get a fair price for it. And so unfortunately, we have to be very vigilant, not only to defend the ground that we have, but to make the right investments, so that in the future we have this opportunity for some harmony between the way that we produce our energy, the way we use our energy and the environmental impact that it has. And I think we can do that in a way, right now where we not only fend off these ridiculous attempts to kill the industry, but also invest some of our recovery money in a way that can have a very real impact for the individuals, the households, and the businesses that are suffering the most.
Jess: That was kind of a mic drop moment from John Farrell there. Chris, I’m curious to hear your perspective on how this might change how we think about broadband infrastructure.
John Farrell: Pick up that microphone, Mr. Mitchell.
 Chris Mitchell: I feel I keep hearing people saying, we can’t forget when this is over that we have to resolve broadband. And my immediate reaction is, if we are going to wait until this is over, to resolve this issue, then we are going to forget it, this is something that we do have to deal with. I think we’re talking about an investment to solve this problem on the order of tens of billions of dollars to perhaps 150 billion, if your goal is, for instance, bring competition to everyone in a high quality connection in multiple providers to everyone, that’s sort of the high end.
 Chris Mitchell: In the short-term, I feel we need more WiFi hotspots in parking lots, to make sure that for people who have to leave their homes to get service, that they can do it in a safe place that is convenient to them. That’s probably the best we can do in the near future is where, certainly at the end of this school year, the beginning of next school year. People are learning a lot about medical supply chains, but for building fiber optic networks in Northern climates, for anyone who’s thinking, you know what we need? We need to actually really get on this plan, you’re not going to get that in the ground before October, you’re going to be breaking ground in the spring next year, these are things that take a while to build.
 Chris Mitchell: So there’s a bit of a reality there, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing it, we have to focus on these short-term efforts, to make sure that people have decent connections in their homes. Part of that actually means, making sure people are aware of the offers from big monopoly companies that we may not necessarily want to do business with, but nonetheless, they already have connections to people’s homes and if they can offer them at no charge, or free, or at a very low cost, then we need to encourage people to sign up for those.
 Chris Mitchell: But in terms of the longer term solution, you shouldn’t trust anyone who says that, as a result of this totally different surprising turn of events, everything I’ve ever said is true. But I do feel we have to keep our eyes on the prize and we need to focus on locally rooted solutions for broadband and hopefully people will take this more seriously now. One argument I hope never to hear again, is that it’s okay for kids to get their WiFi access at McDonald’s, people should have high quality access in their homes and I feel people have a greater appreciation for that now.
Jess: Thank you. Is there anything else that you guys want to talk about today?
John Farrell: Yes. I’ve read the guidelines on how to properly wear a mask to protect myself, Chris.
 Chris Mitchell: I just noticed. Jess, is probably half crazy by my rantings about different masks in what we know and what we don’t know, about that sort of a thing. But I do wear a mask when I go out to protect others and I hope other people are doing that. I think it’s uncomfortable, I have to take my glasses off, frankly, I don’t much care for it. But it’s perhaps a mark of living in civilization, now that we will care for each other in this way.
Jess: Okay. On that note, thank you guys. Thank you for tuning into this episode of the Building Local Power podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. You can find links to what we discussed today by going to and clicking on the show page for this episode, that’s While you’re there, you can sign up for one of our many newsletters and connect with us on social media.
Jess: Finally, you can help us out with the gift that helps produce this very podcast and supports the research and resources we make available for free on our website. You can also help us out by rating this podcast and sharing it with your friends on iTunes or wherever you find your podcasts. This show is produced by Zach Freed, [inaudible 00:32:22] and me Jess Del Fiacco. Our theme music is funk interlude by dysfunctional. For the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, I’m Jess Del Fiacco, and I hope you join us again in two weeks for the next episode of Building Local Power.


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Audio Credit: Funk Interlude by Dysfunction_AL Ft: Fourstones – Scomber (Bonus Track). Copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license.

Photo Credit: Oregon Department of Transportation 

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