FCC wants to overturn state laws against public broadband

FCC Officials At House Oversight Hearing On Cell Phone Usage

Part of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s recent speech about net neutrality included the idea of looking into and possibly overturning state laws that restrict public broadband.

Despite the fact that ISPs have scored restrictions in 20 states on municipal broadband, the FCC believes that a dissent given by Judge Laurence Silberman, concerning Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act that provides the FCC with the ability to enforce net neutrality.

Judge Silberman lost the ruling by a vote of 2-1, but the fact that he believes that the FCC shouldn’t be able to enforce net neutrality also calls into question state legislation barring cities and towns from bringing out their own public broadband services.

“The Commission will look for opportunities to enhance Internet access competition,” Wheeler via statement. “One obvious candidate for close examination was raised in Judge Silberman’s separate opinion, namely legal restrictions on the ability of cities and towns to offer broadband services to consumers in their communities.”

It would be interesting to see if this will allow cities or towns to provide public broadband, which would certainly help in lower-income areas.

[via Ars Technica, LA Times]

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2 comments

  1. JMJ

    [@Scott Hedrick] Excellent, succinct opinion, with which I completely agree. Off hand, I would add only one more point: The Government would completely muck it up and waste millions/billions in the process.

    @Jeff Belanger – Your worthy presupposition that this “would certainly help in lower-income areas” is, I believe, overly optimistic and strongly contradicted by history. Remember the “War on Poverty”, the “Great Society” and consider today’s welfare system. Many, if not all, of the U.S. Government’s entitlement programs are huge, bloated, over-priced, under-performing, counter-productive nightmares. Lower-income communities would find themselves in direct competition with more affluent ones for the infrastructure, maintenance and operation necessary for any such broadband service. They would be underserved and marginalized, just as now with other government-provided “essential” services, like schools, hospitals, parks, etc., etc. The ONLY government-provided services lower-income communities get in their fair share, or, rather, multiples thereof, are policing and incarceration.

  2. Scott Hedrick

    The issues I have with government-operated broadband are: 1. government should not be in competition with existing taxpaying entities they regulate, and it seems unlikely that, once established, government broadband would then shut down once a private company tried to start up; 2. it’s much easier for government to collect data on broadband users if those users are customers; 3. this is not an essential function of government and thus tax money should not be used to support it. If it is supposed to depend on user fees for support, then it’s essentially a private company, in which case a market exists and the government should thus be seeking a private company to provide the service. Let’s stop finding excuses to raise taxes and spend more money.