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FCC Starts Formal Proceedings to Tackle Muni-Broadband Bans
by Karl Bode 06:33PM Monday Jul 28 2014
As we noted last week, two different cities with their own broadband networks (Wilson, NC and Chattanooga, Tennessee) have formally asked the FCC to declare that laws in their states hindering community broadband aren't enforceable, giving FCC boss Tom Wheeler the perfect opportunity to back up claims that he'd take action. Such bills are written and lobbied for by companies like Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner Cable, and often restrict local citizen rights to determine for themselves what the best course of action for their community is.

To get the bureaucratic ball rolling, the FCC has formally issued a public notice (pdf) asking for public and corporate comment on their intervention when it comes to such protectionist laws.

"Both Petitioners allege that state laws restrict their ability to expand their broadband service offerings to surrounding areas where customers have expressed interest in these services, and they request that the Commission preempt such laws," observes the FCC. Chattanooga's EPB claims a Comcast-backed law lets them offer voice services over fiber lines, but prohibits them from offering broadband over those same lines if it's outside their existing utility footprint.

While the public notice opens the door to a potentially protracted discussion about whether the FCC should intervene in these instances, that doesn't necessarily mean the agency will have the political fortitude to actually do so. Incumbent ISPs have already had Rep. Martha Blackburn push a bill stripping FCC funding should they act, and has used proxy groups to threaten lawsuits against the FCC.

65 comments .. click to read

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Purcellville, VA
·T-Mobile US
·Verizon Online DSL

2 recommendations

reply to ev

Re: They are afraid

"The copper network is failing? Lets fix it with trash bags and sell the dumb customers LTE! Less wire-line investment is great, let the old Ma Bell stuff fall apart, who cares, who needs DSL. They don't need that fiber thing, it costs too much money for us. And we can charge per GB with LTE!"

-Fran Shammo

Got Helix?
Putnam, CT

2 recommendations

reply to tshirt
Skimming taxes and fees off of for profit companies? Wow, you really have gone off the deep end. You mean the same for profit companies that then skim off their client base by passing along those same fees and more?


Chicago, IL

7 recommendations

reply to tshirt
Skimming off publicly owned for profit companies. You mean like comcast, which has an effective tax rate of .4% (less than 1%), or Verizon who received $12.3 billion in tax subsidies from the federal government and had an effective tax rate of –2.9 percent. Even with the small telecoms, the average telecom company paid LESS than 8%. Please show me these 'publicly owned companies' we are skimming off of?
The best way to defeat religion it to ignore it. Look at Ra/Thor/Zeus, they all thought they were forever.


Sandy, UT

2 recommendations

reply to rradina

Re: Local Citizen's "Rights"

The telephone and power systems in many many areas was originally constructed by local coop phone systems that were authorized and funded with tax dollars at the local level. Most of the local phone systems were later sold to ATT under the assumption that they would become a publicly regulated monopoly utility provider who would maintain the tax investment and upgrade as necessary with rates regulated and controlled by the taxpayers at set maximum profit margins.

Many local governments still own their own power infrastructure that was built the same way the phone system was. The fact is that many many areas are uneconomic for these utilities to upgrade or overbuild, this is especially true in rural areas. This is usually tied to the financing interest rates that private companies face and the high initial build out costs. This creates an ideal situation for a community to use tax dollars to fund construction of this infrastructure .

These state laws are nothing but corporate tyranny (bought and paid for) of the small and often rural areas that are not serviced properly by private companies in the area. In time once the network is built they may even sell the network to a private company or they may retain it's management just like the city owned power and phone companies that exist to this day. Infrastructure, particularly in situations where it's a natural monopoly are ideal areas for citizens to collectively use their government to provide this need.

Your argument that if it's a right it would be unconstitutional is absurd misdirection. The ridiculous argument that private enterprise is the solution to every problem is as silly as the argument that communist government is the solution to every problem. Both assume ideal situations and altruistic actors that do not exist in the real world. Here in the real world we need both free markets and strong government for effective markets. And using government to build a needed public infrastructure that private enterprise can't or won't build is a perfectly acceptable use of local government.

I do believe these endeavors should require votes by the electorate to support this use of tax dollars and that strict auditing procedures should be put in place just as there is in road construction and usually other infrastructure projects. Without these auditing protocols (red tape) it becomes far to easy for corrupt public officials to funnel public funds to family, friends or those who provide kickbacks. This is where the state should be creating laws, not in outright restricting localities from building needed infrastructure. These infrastructure projects can be immensely successful in areas with involved and passionate citizens advocating for the infrastructure especially those areas undeserved by large businesses enterprises that don't see acceptable ROI in these build-outs. Particularly where they've got outdated and insufficient infrastructure they are milking for every dollar using their monopoly status, a lack of capital spending and substandard maintenance.



5 recommendations

reply to rradina
said by rradina:

While I agree with the noble ideal of a local government wiring itself when a local monopoly either isn't interested or is half-ass trying, I'm not sure this is a right. Do any of us really have the right to use the government to compete with private enterprise? If it was truly a right, wouldn't it be unconstitutional if states created laws that nullified such a right? Wouldn't something as strong as a right require an constitutional amendment to vanquish? Don't amendments require approval of two thirds of both houses plus 75% of states. Further, what power would the FCC have to affect a right?

What the Hell are you even talking about? Local governments are stepping in to build essential infrastructure in communities where private sector network owners have decided that its not profitable for them to expand. People should not have to suffer poor service now to account for the fact that for-profit companies might want to expand their offerings later.

All this rightist raving about free enterprise ignores the fact these oligarchs are denying people access to the essential infrastructure that fuels today's economy. Reliable, affordable broadband access is not a consumer good like an iPod, a fancy suit, or a meal out for which we can rely on things like competition and shipping to ensure that the people who want these things can have them: it is infrastructure akin to our roads and our bridges, and it is there for a natural monopoly and something far more fundamental to one's ability to participate in the economy and in political discourse than the aforementioned consumer goods. If the private sector is too beholden to the investor revenues to carry out this task, then perhaps it's time to consider alternatives.

I won't even benefit from this: I live in a middle-class suburb of a major city and have access to fast, reliable FTTN offerings from my local cable and phone provider. Moreover, if I don't find the billing or customer service of the network operators to my liking, I also have the the ability to choose a third-party ISP because I live in a civilized political community that understands (at least to some extent) the benefits of open infrastructure and of competition.



2 recommendations

reply to rradina
Conversely, does private enterprise have the right to handcuff citizens through misuses of the government?



3 recommendations

reply to tshirt

Re: They are afraid

Nah, the current system of private companies providing third-world broadbands to the heartlands is working out just fine, thankyouverymuchly. Just ask corporate welfare kings job creators like Jeff Gardner.

"Let them eat LTE" -- Lowell C. McAdam

Jim Kirk
Westerville, OH

9 recommendations

reply to tshirt
Off your meds again?



3 recommendations

The timing of this could be perfect...

As the consolidation of the cable companies goes forward, it would be nice to see some towns start up their own networks right after the mega Cable co's. complete their merger. Some quality competition would really piss them off.

Lets hope it actually happens!


Purcellville, VA

6 recommendations

They are afraid

There is only one reason why corporate interests are afraid when communities take matters into their own hands.

They will lose out on piles of money.

They do not care about you. Don't fool yourself.