Net Neutrality

Muni Operators Split on Title II

Despite the challenges of deployment, municipal broadband is now a force to be reckoned with. And in the net neutrality fight, muni operators are lining up on both sides.

Several dozen municipal providers filed a letter with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week, declaring their opposition to the agency's proposal for Title II, utility-style regulation of broadband Internet service. Arguing that their small scale makes added regulation unnecessary, the muni providers point out that they have no power over content providers to compel payments for prioritizing traffic delivery. In the letter, the group also notes that while the FCC isn't proposing to regulate broadband rates today, that fact is "at best cold comfort" given that the Commission cannot stop future FCC leaders from instituting rate regulation under Title II if they decide to do so.

In contrast to the service providers who filed their opposition with the FCC, however, there are other muni operators who fully support Title II. Charlie Smyth, a board member with Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband (UC2B) told Computerworld, "By default, we support Title II and net neutrality in general where whole communities are able to determine their own destiny." Smyth added that he was very surprised by the opposing view of other municipal operators, calling their Title II arguments a "smokescreen" and "phony".

For the latest on the net neutrality debates, visit Light Reading's dedicated Gigabit Cities content channel. And be sure to register to attend Light Reading's Gigabit Cities Live event on May 13-14 in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, in parallel with the Title II debate, the FCC also circulated a proposal earlier this month to knock down the state regulatory barriers in North Carolina and Tennessee designed to keep municipal broadband deployments from spreading. While the proposal is only directed at those two states, the agency's move could open the door for similar regulatory action in other parts of the US. (See Muni Utilities Take Gigabit Fight to FCC.)

Both the proposed Title II switch and the muni broadband proposal addressing deployments in North Carolina and Tennessee will come up for votes at the FCC's next open meeting on February 26. So the fireworks are just beginning.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

DHagar 2/17/2015 | 12:22:23 PM
Re: Muni Operators split Susan, thanks; I think Europe may be ahead of the US in its infrastructure development.  Yes, Cisco is a player, but one of the drivers here is Google and service providers.
Susan Fourtané 2/17/2015 | 6:30:45 AM
Re: Muni operators split DHagar, 

I see. It's great that they have the initiative to improve their city. Usually, Cisco and Bosch support cities that have good projects. They have partnered with several cities in Europe developing infrastructure and applications for smart cities. 

DHagar 2/16/2015 | 1:45:47 PM
Re: Muni operators split Susan, it is mostly financial.  They are wanting to be progressive cities with high performance broadband and needing the partnership/investments of private firms to work with them to build out the infrastructure.  So I see them more in alignment with the private sector view in wanting to maintain the incentives to invest and profit.
Susan Fourtané 2/16/2015 | 12:07:06 AM
Re: Muni Operators Split DHagar, 

What is the major challenge in the initiatives in those cities? Is it waiting for investment, or something else?

DHagar 2/13/2015 | 3:59:45 PM
Re: Muni Operators Split Mari, interesting insight.  I am working with several cities engaged in building out their broadband.  My observation is that most cities are in agreement with the first view, in opposition; primarily because they are relying on the investments of partnerships to invest and build out their networks.  If that incentive shrinks, their buildout slows down.

Note:  Unless they start using the drones for 4G - as in other articles!

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