FCC votes 3-2 to override state bans of municipal broadband

7 Comments

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday morning voted to push aside laws in two states that restrict municipalities from building out their local high speed broadband networks.

In a 3-2 vote, the FCC granted petitions from Chattanooga, North Carolina and Wilson, North Carolina that asked the agency to invoke its powers under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act to “remove barriers” to infrastructure access.

The upshot is that the FCC has invoked federal power to pre-empt state laws that, according to advocates for the municipalities, were passed at the behest of big telecom companies.

While Thursday’s vote applies only to Tennessee or North Carolina, it will provide legal ammunition for towns in more than twenty other states that confront laws banning or restricting municipal-run broadband services.

The Democratic Commissioners who voted in favor of pre-emption used their platform at the hearing to call attention to towns across the country that lack basic broadband access because private companies won’t build it.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn observed that millions of Americans are “trapped in digital darkness,” and can’t access high-speed internet service that would let them access telework and school services, especially during snow days.

The two Republican Commissioners questioned the legal authority of the FCC, under Section 706, to override the state laws, and raised concern about its effect on the private market.

“It’s not the government’s role to offer services instead of or in competition with private actors,” said Commissioner Michael O’Reilly, who likened town services to nationalization in Russia, Venezuela and Cuba.

Chairman Tom Wheeler, however, said the state laws were “thickets of red tape to limit competition,” and said the agency was cutting away that red tape consistent with Congress’s instructions to ensure a competitive broadband market. He also suggested that the Republicans were acting hypocritically by claiming to be in favor of broadband, while also throwing their lot in with those who want to restrict access to it.

Wheeler also called attention to Tennessee residents in the audience who lived within miles of Chattanooga’s super-fast gigabyte fiber network, but are stuck with slow internet service because state laws won’t let the city utility sell its service to them.

The municipal broadband issue is one of two major issues that the FCC is voting on today. Later on Thursday, the Commission will vote on the hot button net neutrality issue.

 

7 Comments

Elisabeth Zguta

First, there is a limited amount of access available no matter who runs it. The services have been tiered to help allocate, those willing to pay more – got more. When you don’t allow companies to group (in the interest of all) the result will be poor service to all. There is no possible way to service everyone at 100% I suggest a great way to understand this is by taking a free #MOOC course offered by Princeton via Coursera https://www.coursera.org/course/friendsmoneybytes
Second – whenever things are turned into utilities, it is a back door for government fees, taxes etc. Nothing new about that either.

velocitychicken

You’re free to keep whatever private provider you want – in all these cases, the sole provider (IE: Monopoly) provides no or terribly slow service – so bad that the residents vote to set up a not-for-profit public utility to provide an alternative for Internet access. In most cases, these won’t be paid for by tax payers – only by people who subscribe.

It’s like if you lived in a neighborhood where the only privately held electric company turned your power off every night at 5pm and turned it back on at 7am – but wouldn’t let you vote to create a publicly owned utility that would – you know – give you power 24/7. You’re against that, too?

Elisabeth Zguta

First, there is a limited amount of access available no matter who runs it. The services have been tiered to help allocate, those willing to pay more – got more. When you don’t allow companies to group (in the interest of all) the result will be poor service to all. There is no possible way to service everyone at 100% I suggest a great way to understand this is by taking a free #MOOC course offered by Princeton via Coursera https://www.coursera.org/course/friendsmoneybytes
Second – whenever things are turned into utilities, it is a back door for government fees, taxes etc. Nothing new about that either.

bob bilderbrand

good thing the govt has nothing to do with it. please liz, read up on what it is before having that ridiculous visceral reaction. nothing is changing except the cable companies cannot control what you see and they cant gouge you over it. please…….. please read about it

Elisabeth Zguta

If it were only that simple Bob. You shouldn’t assume things – I have read up on the legislation that just passed, and the results will not be as innocent as suggested. This is not just about giving cable a more level access and taking away the ability for those willing to pay more to have better service- it is a movement to socialize access all together. In the end all customers will end up paying more for all services and we will have less choice if it is converted and treated like a utility. I hope it can be undone, because this is just another way the government can creep in after all is done and tax citizens on the ‘utility’.

igloojig'bow

What is this, the 1950’s?
Moving away from anything free market is not in turn a move towards socialism that so many Americans automatically knee jerk fear.
More money will still buy you faster lines. No one is suggesting some strange communist equality you seem to have latched onto. Sometimes a continuous free market causes locked up market by sheer size of company who beat everything else. They then use their weight to hold onto the market without ever having to improve or move forwards. That is what is happening. It is a perfect example of a monopoly situation.

When your entire nation’s ability to join in with a global internet race is concerned, you want this.
It will in fact have the reverse effect, and competition, even if started by government, will reduce price gouging and have companies actually compete again. It isn’t eradicating private companies. It’s forcing them to compete and not rely on government bribery.
When prices are lower and competition from outside one or two companies is possible, it will create smaller localized companies who will be able to encourage growth and competition in niche markets.
It will also cause them to NEED to upgrade infrastructure, and not just milk the same cash cow to death while you pay them more and more to do absolutely nothing.
Back in the 90’s, the US lead the world in internet speeds.
It’s now nothing short of embarrassing.

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