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It's Put Up or Shut Up Time For FCC On Community Broadband
by Karl Bode 03:11PM Thursday Jul 24 2014
New FCC boss Tom Wheeler has now stated several times he's going to take aim at incumbent-ISP state laws that ban or prohibit towns and cities from deploying their own broadband -- even in cases where nobody else will. Chattanooga utility EPB broadband is ready for Wheeler to actually start following through with this promise any day now, and is giving the FCC boss the opportunity to show his rhetoric on the subject isn't empty.

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The city utility wants to expand their successful 1 Gbps municipal broadband service to additional users, but finds themselves running up against protectionist Tennessee laws literally written and purchased by the likes of Comcast. This week EPB formally filed a request with the FCC (pdf) urging them to overturn a portion of Tennessee's law, one of twenty such laws nationwide.

Under said law, EPB is allowed to offer voice service anywhere in the State, but the law prohibits the company from using those very-same lines to offer broadband outside of their current electrical area. That restriction obviously only really benefits Comcast, who tried to sue the project out of existence before turning to the state legislative process.

The group, via lawyer Jim Baller (who I've talked to about this issue many times over the last decade), argues that the FCC's mandate is to ensure the deployment of broadband "in a reasonable timely basis," and as such they can and should declare the restrictive portion of the law unenforceable:
EPB petitions the Commission to find that advanced telecommunications capabilities, including high-speed broadband services, are not being deployed on a reasonable and timely basis in communities near EPB’s electric service area because of the territorial restriction in Section 601 that limits EPB’s deployment of Internet and video programming to its electric service area. The Commission should find that, absent Section 601’s electric service area limitation, broadband investment would occur on a reasonable and timely basis in the areas surrounding EPB’s current footprint. The Commission should therefore take immediate action to remove the barrier created by the territorial restriction contained in Section 601 and declare it to be unenforceable.
Comcast and AT&T have quickly moved to stop the FCC's potential assault on their protectionist laws via both lawsuit threats via proxy groups, and via politicians like Martha Blackburn, who, after receiving campaign contributions from PACs tied to both companies -- has passed a bill in the House threatening to strip FCC funding if the agency dares to act. It's not a fight that would be easy, but it's a fight the FCC should win -- and it's a long-overdue fight that must be had if we're to finally start taking broadband competition problems seriously.

As with consumer advocate requests that ISPs be reclassified as utilities as a solution to neutrality concerns, this is another area where Wheeler can prove he's either thrown aside his long-history of industry lobbying and is ready to fight for consumers, or is just another in a very long line of FCC bosses too timid to meaningfully challenge deep-pocketed campaign contributors and the status quo.

Update: The city of Wilson, North Carolina has filed their own request for the FCC (pdf) calling for FCC action against a similar bill bought and paid for by Time Warner Cable in that state.

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Tacoma, WA

2 recommendations

Don't hold your breath...

...waiting for Wheeler to do ANYTHING pro-consumer. This man is already bought and paid for. He has his instructions...


Chicago, IL

12 recommendations

Their #1 complaint

Their biggest complaint by far, is the muni's don't need to pay taxes. That is PATENTLY false. EPB is the largest taxpayer in Chattanooga. Their second argument is 'they aren't trying to make a profit'. Please, Comcast/AT&T/whomever, where is it written ANYWHERE that you need to make a profit. There are over 1.5 Million non-profits in the US. Are you telling me they are ALL illegal?
Comcast is crying simply because their service SUCKS compared to what the TAXPAYERS of Chattanooga VOTED to create. And the important part of that is VOTED TO CREATE. The fact that comcast will most likely give up on Chattanooga (and hopefully the surrounding towns), is because WHEN YOU ARE BEHOLDEN to Fat Cats and shareholders, there is NO WAY you can provide the same level of service that a company that DOES NOT have to rape the customers for profit. Period. Comcast is crying BECAUSE they are no longer able to RAPE the customers. And that makes them sad, and the fat cat hookers and yachts and cocaine will need to be cut back. Wheeler has BETTER stand up to the corrupt, and bought politicians by ensuring that a TAXPAYER SUPPORTED system which provides BETTER, CHEAPER and FASTER service is not denied the ability to expand.
The best way to defeat religion it to ignore it. Look at Ra/Thor/Zeus, they all thought they were forever.