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FCC Chairman to states: allow municipal broadband, or else

updated 10:55 am EDT, Fri June 13, 2014

Remarks repeat what Wheeler has said in the past about local broadband

US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler, after speaking with Chattanooga Tennessee mayor Andy Berke, took a hard stance against states' legislation and business deals with cable companies, which often prevent the buildout of municipal broadband. In a statement after the meeting, the chairman said in a blog post that he believes "that it is in the best interests of consumers and competition that the FCC exercises its power to preempt state laws that ban or restrict competition from community broadband. Given the opportunity, we will do so."

The remarks reiterate what the chairman had previously said about municipal broadband. At the National Cable and Telecommunications Association trade show, he declared that municipal governments "shouldn't be inhibited by state laws." The remarks were derided by mostly Republican senators, complaining that "state sovereignty" was impinged by the localities' drive for municipal broadband.

Chairman Wheeler was addressing the fact that many US cities have large fiberoptic networking installations, paid for by taxpayer dollars, that are "dark," unknown, or unusable -- primarily due to telecom company lobbyists and threats to localities. At least 20 states have enacted laws or other legal barriers to prevent community access to these networks, and even more have signed non-compete agreements with Internet providers.

Wheeler noted that in his discussion, he found that Tennessee has a law limiting the deployment of community networks, and this law is prohibiting the expansion of the network to surrounding communities, some of which have no broadband service other than cellular networks available at all.

Wheeler believes that "removing restrictions on community broadband can expand high-speed Internet access in underserved areas, spurring economic growth and improvements in government services, while enhancing competition. Giving the citizens of Chattanooga and leaders like Mayor Berke the power to make these decisions for themselves is not only the right thing to do; it's the smart thing to do."

by MacNN Staff



  1. prl99

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 03-24-09

    It's a wonder this country is surviving at all. There's no such thing as competition with all the laws against it. As far as I'm concerned, we should do away with all these individual companies and have a single federalized communications network, broadband and LTE, that's freely available to everyone without restrictions. The internet started off as a government network paid for by taxes, why did it change to a for-profit, heavily restricted network geared to make money for the few instead of a service for everyone? Why do we have multiple cellular companies all using different frequencies so multiple cell towers have to be erected to make multiple frequencies work? Not all towers have repeaters for every cell company. Just because the government operates something doesn't mean there isn't innovation. Look at NASA. Without this government provided resource we wouldn't have 90% of the advances in technology we now have. The preamble to the US constitution starts as "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." It doesn't say companies or states or cities or municipalities, it says the People of the United States. That's you and me so why are we being held hostage by these companies, states, cities and municipalities? We need to take back what is ours.

  1. ElectroTech

    Junior Member

    Joined: 11-26-08

    @plr99 The government used to run the post office and look at the poor service we got. Private enterprise came in and FEDEX, DHL etc. took over and the prices came down, speed of delivery went up and people have more choices now. If the federal government took over the internet services, we would be back at dial-up or even the telegraph. All the government needs to do is allow competition from the cities and other private companies and force companies to compete for each customer giving them at least two choices.

  1. mgpalma

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 09-27-00

    I disagree that the federal government should be allowed to preempt state law AT ALL. Look what it's gotten us so far, a bully federal government that does whatever it wants despite the will of the people. No wonder America is in such a state of decline.

  1. Arty50

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 05-23-00

    Prices came down? FedEx and UPS are way more expensive than the USPS. There's no way in hell you can send a letter through them for anything close to $0.49. Plus, they don't deliver everywhere the USPS does. The USPS is mandated to cover the entire country.

  1. prl99

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 03-24-09

    @ElectroTech "The government used to run the post office and look at the poor service we got." Are you saying now that's it's not a government agency it's being run better? Hardly.

    Competition doesn't always end up in better services and reduced cost. In fact, lately it only seems to drive prices up, especially after the loss-leader introductory time period. I have two companies where I live who say they compete but they don't. Verizon left WA, selling off to Frontier. They get to compete against Comcast and there isn't any competition, Comcast wins hands down. Therefore, they can continue to charge high fees. Forcing companies to compete is a funny statement. People want the government out of the way except when they want them to do something. You can't have it both ways.

  1. climacs

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 09-06-01

    if private enterprise worked in the field of broadband access, cost and speed, why is the US so very far behind other developed nations, including those horrible awful socialist Europeans? It's an oligarchy with protected profits. It's disgusting and the FCC chairman is right. Doctrinaire free market cultists make me want to vomit.

  1. Think 4D

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 05-28-08

    "States rights." The hoops that some people have to go through to suppress cognitive dissonance. So, the GOP is in favor of states rights even though it limits their professed belief in free-market competition, but against it when it legalizes drugs and gay marriage?

  1. climacs

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 09-06-01

    "states rights", the age-old rationalization for slavery and Jim Crow.

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    ElectroTech: your revisionist history (mostly incorrect) of the Post Office and its competition from private enterprise is truly written as though by someone who is too young to have lived it. Without getting into a whole long story about it, the fact of the matter is that while the Post Office was (and still is) in need of reform, Congress *allowed* corporate raiders to pick off ONLY the most profitable parts of the Post Office's business, crippling their ability to make a profit, which was then used as an excuse to further cut services.

    The US Postal Service did its job, and did it so well it was the envy of the world, for 200 years. Two hundred years!! But then Congress allowed grossly unfair competition that had considerable tax and other advantages (do you think FedEx is putting $5.5 billion per year aside for its retired workers? HA) that left the agency unable to fight back. And that is exactly how some people in Congress want it -- and that's hardly the only thing that most Americans rely on as a "service" that will soon be turned into a for-profit venture if we're not careful ...

    Suffice to say I'm strongly in agreement with prl99.

  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 01-25-07

    Too true, chas_m. The combination of your first and second paragraph is why the USPS is struggling right now. That is the way congress kills things it's backers don't like.
    FDA? EPA? The list of the things getting strangled, that are good for US citizens, isn't pretty to look at.
    Inarguable a few of them need reform, but killing them does nothing for us.

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