Dems Urge FCC Action to Protect Muni Nets

Eight Democratic members of Congress are challenging the FCC to reverse the trend toward legal restrictions on municipal development and ownership of broadband networks.

The five senators and three representatives last Friday sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom 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.

According to The Baller-Herbst Law Group, a D.C. firm long associated with municipal broadband efforts, there are 21 states that currently have some restrictions on the rights of municipalities to own and operate their own broadband networks. These vary widely, however, ranging from outright bans to restrictions on how such networks can be financed or used to specific requirements on what services can be offered. (The full list can be found here.)

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), in particular, has actively worked at the state level to impede muni networks. It is far from alone in those efforts, however, as other major cable and telecom operators have worked hard to oppose specific network plans and what they see as a general threat of being forced to compete with tax-subsidized network efforts. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson spoke out against municipal networks in addressing Congress just last week.

The Democrats, including Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Al Franken (D-MN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Cory Booker (D-NJ), argue in their letter that municipalities needing to promote their communities and attract jobs should not be restricted in their ability to fund and build their own networks.

The three members of the House of Representations signing the letter are Mike Doyle (D-NJ), Henry Waxman (D-CA), and Anna Ishoo (D-CA). The full text of the letter is here.)

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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MikeP688 7/11/2014 | 5:20:52 AM
Re: Both sides now One of the compelling rationale should be simply to attract business.     It seems to me to be simple and logical--and for the record, for my local community, I think it is almost 100% covered today (between all the city facilities, Starbucks, the schools, the restaurants..)--for all intent and purpose, it is here. :-)
Mitch Wagner 7/9/2014 | 7:35:29 PM
Re: Both sides now TomNolle - "I understand that, Mitch.  The question is whether they can keep doing it.  Why would local citizens pay for something via tax if they're unwilling to pay for it through monthly service charges?  The underlying cost isn't impacted by the payment mechanism."

The idea is that the cost is borne by the whole community because the whole community benefits, not just the recipients of the service.

That's the rationale behind highways and mass transit -- they attract business, therefore the whole community benefits. 

Also, businesses aren't looking to provide a service for the benefit of customers. They're looking to make a profit. (I know that's stating the obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs stating.) It may well be that broadband can be provided at a cost-effective rate -- but not for a sufficient profit margin to attract for-profit Internet service providers.
Mitch Wagner 7/9/2014 | 7:32:42 PM
Re: Both sides now I did an opinion piece years ago, for a publication that no longer exists, saying municipal Wi-Fi should be legal, but municipalities should not do it. I'm don't feel that way about the last part anymore.
brookseven 7/3/2014 | 7:35:15 PM
Re: Common FTTP Fiber Network So, whatnowdog...go ahead. seven
whatnowdog 7/3/2014 | 7:02:07 PM
Common FTTP Fiber Network I would suggest a private company build a dark fiber network to every house and business and then let other content companies and ISPs sell their product to a customer. They would lease a fiber strand for the customer do the inside work and connect at a POP site. I would hope several content companies compete instead of just one. Even Dish and Directv might decide to use the fiber instead of a dish.  If all you want is internet you may have several local ISPs or even national ISPs compete.

The one thing I would like is for the fiber network to cover the entire county or be a regional network. If you have power you will get FTTH within a few years if you want it. I have a problem with Muni because they can have all the problems other utilities have if politics gets  involved. They also tend to stop at the city limit. I would suggest the power company build the network if the telco or cable company does not want to take it on. If the telco/cable builds it they can not favor their own customers over anyone else.

The big reason FTTH networks don't get built is the expense for each company to build their own network and hope the percent of passed customer is enough to pay for the network. If there is one shared network the take rate is much higher then IF two or three companies build separate networks. Hopefully you will get competition from more companies if the content companies does not have to build a network.
Duh! 7/1/2014 | 6:11:57 PM
Re: Legal authority? Seeing as Markey is the architect of the 1996 Telecommunications Act fiasco, maybe he can explain.
Carol Wilson 7/1/2014 | 4:25:33 PM
Re: Both sides now Don't be a sad panda, I was only kidding!

The issue you raise is the part that puzzled me as well. I keep looking back at the Telecom Act and trying to find what "tools" they are talking about. 

I have tried to get an answer and will keep trying.

brookseven 7/1/2014 | 3:21:17 PM
Re: Both sides now Carol!

I am so hurt....I am a sad panda.

Ah c'mon - you know you love me.  :)

I was completely buffaoloed by the whole why the Senators think that the FCC can overrule the States.  Seems like a grandstanding thing to me.  Duh! and I fume in our efforts in the ability to educate the public on the issues here.  We disagree on a number of topics as do you and I.  But I think we can all agree that the general public is relatively ignorant of what the choices are.  I am surprised that a group of Sentaors and Congresspersons are that uneducated.



Carol Wilson 7/1/2014 | 3:01:32 PM
Re: Both sides now Sorry, you lost me at "I essentially agree with Carol..." 
brookseven 7/1/2014 | 2:51:26 PM
Re: Both sides now The one thing that I think should be noted here (and I essentially agree with Carol and Duh! here) is that we really need to differentiate here about who the incumbent telco is here and the services offered.

I have not seen a lot of muni networks where an Tier 1 incumbent installs a FTTH network.  But lots of places inside Verizon and AT&T are not going to get upgrades according to both companies.  So, essentially they are stranded to create competition.

The IOCs have been doing FTTH for 10+ years and there can be a reasonable local economic case.



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