Light Reading
Utilities in Chattanooga, Tenn. and Wilson, N.C. petition the FCC to let them expand their gigabit networks to surrounding communities.

Muni Utilities Take Gigabit Fight to FCC

Jason Meyers
7/28/2014
50%
50%

The municipalities and municipally-owned utilities that have been successfully providing broadband services are gearing up for a long battle, determined to address demand from surrounding communities to extend their networks -- even if they have to get approval to do it one community at a time.

Two of those entities -- EPB Fiber Optics in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the City of Wilson, N.C.'s Greenlight, an operating unit of Wilson Energy -- have petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to pre-empt state laws in their respective states that prevent utilities from providing Internet and video programming services outside of their utility service areas.

Both EPB and Greenlight argue that several surrounding communities have specifically requested the services provided on their gigabit networks -- clear evidence, they say, that the incumbent communications providers are not addressing the broadband needs of residents in those markets.

"We extend into parts of six counties, and on almost a weekly basis we have people from these surrounding counties requesting we bring services to their areas," says Will Aycock, general manager of Greenlight.

"Right outside of our territory you see people that have access only to dial-up," says Danna Bailey, vice president of corporate communications for EPB. "Over the past several years they've been asking us, as individuals and as communities, to bring our service to them. Tennessee law allows us to bring them phone, but that's not what they want. Local communities should be able to decide their own destiny."


For ongoing updates on Gigabit Cities and the municipal network debate, visit Light Reading's Broadband/FTTx content channel.


It's too early to say how the FCC will react to the petitions, but FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler specifically cited EPB's network in a recent blog post, in which he stated that it's in the best interests of consumers and competition that the FCC exercise its power to preempt state laws that ban or restrict competition from community broadband.

Last month, several members of Congress sent a letter to Wheeler urging him to combat efforts to restrict community ownership of broadband networks, using the powers given to the agency in the 1996 Telecom Act. Meanwhile, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) recently attached an amendment to the fiscal 2015 Financial Services appropriations bill that would keep regulators from modifying state laws prohibiting municipalities from building and operating broadband networks -- legislation that was narrowly approved in the House but still requires Senate approval and the signature of the President to become law. (See Dems Urge FCC Action to Protect Muni Nets, The Municipal Menace?.

What might the incumbents do?
The other significant question in all this is if, and how, the incumbent telcos and cable operators will respond -- and why they don't see the communities' desire for broadband services as incentive enough to develop their networks to be able to address it. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) operate in the Tennessee markets: AT&T did not respond to requests for an interview; and a spokesman for Comcast had no comment.

Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) are the incumbents in the communities around Wilson. A spokesman for Time Warner Cable replied to an email question about how the company is addressing broadband demand in the areas mentioned in the Wilson petition by stating "we're focused on serving the communities where we're currently offering service right now."

He also provided a statement from Marcus Trathen, counsel to the North Carolina Cable Telecommunications Association: "We are in the process of reviewing the petition filed by the City of Wilson. It is important to understand that North Carolina's level playing field law does not prevent cities from providing competitive communications services -- it only sets the rules if they choose to compete."

A CenturyLink spokesman responded to Light Reading's email request for an interview with a statement: "CenturyLink currently is able to serve 96% of the homes in our North Carolina service area with high-speed Internet. We feel that with the passage of HB129, the North Carolina General Assembly has outlined a clear pathway for cities to build municipal networks with specific consumer protections. This law puts the decision of whether to incur debt into the hands of the citizens, and is similar to the ways that municipalities allow the citizens to decide whether to build schools or improve roads. The City of Wilson is simply trying to bypass their citizens, governor, legislature, and state policy."

One opponent of municipally provided broadband maintains that the matter should be handled at the state and federal government level, not by the FCC.

"It's a conversation for states to have about how they're going to spend taxpayer dollars, or a conversation about federal subsidies or federal laws that pre-empt state laws," says Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, a non-profit think tank that Szoka says is supported by AT&T, Comcast, Google Fiber and others. "The FCC does not have this authority."

Teresa Mastrangelo, founder and principal analyst of Broadbandtrends LLC , says she doesn't understand the arguments put forward by the Congressional opponents to municipal broadband, but acknowledged that the FCC's authority might be limited and that federal law favors the incumbents.

"Why would you not want investment in your state? It's been my impression that they don't care about these small communities. Clearly these members of Congress have a lot of funding coming to them from big players," she says. "The Communications Act is actually preventing people from participating in the digital age in these cases. In un-served and under-served markets, there should be exceptions to this rule."

— Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, Light Reading

(3)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
KBode
50%
50%
KBode,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/28/2014 | 6:23:26 PM
CenturyLink...
"The City of Wilson is simply trying to bypass their citizens, governor, legislature, and state policy."

Said the company that literally writes draft legislation, then throws money at lawmakers until they adopt it -- however abysmal it is. The same company that (even as Qwest) worked tirelessly to take the right to decide what is best for themselves away from citizens...

I love the pretense from folks (Blackburn, etc) ok with duopolies literally writing the law that they care a whit about local state citizen rights.
jasonmeyers
50%
50%
jasonmeyers,
User Rank: Blogger
7/28/2014 | 1:16:28 PM
Re: Interests and Competition
@smkinoshita, I agree, and I think the laws are confusing to us all. I wonder if one thing we might see emerge here are hybrid efforts by some municipalities -- dark fiber initiatives, perhaps, or even neutral conduit along rights of ways to encourage more competitive providers to come to come to town.
smkinoshita
50%
50%
smkinoshita,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/28/2014 | 11:24:52 AM
Interests and Competition
"The City of Wilson is simply trying to bypass their citizens, governor, legislature, and state policy."

Nothing smells more of deception than a line like that.

I can't begin to understand the laws in effect here as I'm Canadian and we have our own mess, but to me it sounds like the old story of those in a comfortable place not wanting competition.  After all, competition is always good for the consumer and in the long run it's good for business too since it forces learning smarter practices, but businesses always fight it because it's bad for them in the short.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Rick Talbot, Principal Analyst, Current Analysis

10|31|14   |   2:12   |   (0) comments


At the NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014, Rick Talbot shared his positive feedback about the holistic and open approach that Huawei adopts for SDN and NFV. He also found the open sharing at the event valuable as it features different perspectives from Huawei experts, telecom operators, industry analysts as well as security experts.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With David Snow, Principal Analyst, Current Analysis

10|31|14   |   2:24   |   (0) comments


David Snow talked about his understanding of Huawei and its SoftCOM strategy at the NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014, saying that Huawei's wide approach combining IT and CT expertise, introducing big data and analytics into solutions and contributing to the OpenStack community particularly resonate with him and make the company stand out in the industry.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Roz Roseboro, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

10|31|14   |   3:13   |   (0) comments


Roz Roseboro commented on Huawei's data center capabilities and NFV solutions at the NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014, saying that in addition to covering all three key domains of compute, storage and networking, the company also emphasizes the importance of management capabilities and professional services, which are essential in making NFV a reality.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Michael Howard, Co-founder & Principal Analyst, Infonetics Research

10|31|14   |   5:25   |   (0) comments


Michael Howard talked about SDN, NFV, and OpenStack adoption at Huawei's NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014. Particularly, he pointed out that Virtual Enterprise CPE is the top NFV use case that operators plan to invest in over 2014 and 2015 to deliver new enterprise services through virtualized functions.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Jerry Caron, Senior Vice President, Current Analysis

10|31|14   |   3:11   |   (0) comments


At Huawei's NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014, Jerry Caron from Current Analysis said that orchestration and management are key to realizing SDN and NFV for global carriers, and the approach that Huawei is taking, with its FusionSphere Cloud OS at the core, is in the right direction to address the challenges.
LRTV Documentaries
Broadband Battles

10|31|14   |   01:39   |   (0) comments


This year's Broadband World Forum featured a number of show floor battles focused on access gear, components and coffee.
Jonestown
Mobile Backhaul: Going to the Dark Side?

10|30|14   |   2:26   |   (1) comment


Heavy Reading's Patrick Donegan shares his view on a dark trend that bubbled up at Light Reading's annual backhaul conference in NYC.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview With CEO of SwitchCom

10|30|14   |   4:13   |   (0) comments


SwitchCom, an IT company based in Angola, recommends a variety of Huawei solutions and hardware to their customers in the energy industry.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview With Ethiopia's Ministry of Water Irrigation & Energy

10|30|14   |   4:08   |   (0) comments


Gosaye Mengistie of Ethiopia's Ministry of Water Irrigation & Energy discusses the collaboration with Huawei in that country.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview with Dongfang Electronics Corporation

10|30|14   |   5:46   |   (0) comments


Dongfang Electronics Corporation, headquartered in Chengdu, China, is one of China's largest manufacturers of power generators and contractors of power station projects.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview with Zimbabwe's Customers

10|30|14   |   3:31   |   (0) comments


Representatives of Zimbabwe's Ministry of Power and Development discuss the energy needs of their country as well as new areas of improvement due to enhanced ICT capabilities.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview With Colbún Chile

10|30|14   |   4:29   |   (0) comments


In Chile, an aging energy infrastructure was in dire need of a modern update. Claudio Valenzuela of Colbún discusses how Huawei's ICT solutions continue to provide crucial information to improve the grid and how an in-country engineer is a cricial asset.
Upcoming Live Events
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
February 10, 2015, Atlanta, GA
May 6, 2015, McCormick Convention Center, Chicago, IL
May 30, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
WhoIsHostingThis.com presents six of the world's most extreme WiFi hotspots, enabling the most epic selfies you can imagine.
Hot Topics
Microsoft's Skype Embraces WebRTC on IE
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 10/27/2014
FTC Slaps AT&T With Throttling Lawsuit
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 10/28/2014
Wheeler Gets Down With OTT
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 10/29/2014
China's MVNOs Hit the Wall
Robert Clark, 10/27/2014
Let's Not Kill SDN & NFV With Silos
Francois Locoh-Donou, Senior VP, Global Products Group, Ciena, 10/28/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed