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The Internet Government United States

Two Cities Ask the FCC To Preempt State Laws Banning Municipal Fiber Internet 200

Jason Koebler writes Two cities—Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Wilson, North Carolina—have officially asked the federal government to help them bypass state laws banning them from expanding their community owned, gigabit fiber internet connections. In states throughout the country, major cable and telecom companies have battled attempts to create community broadband networks, which they claim put them at a competitive disadvantage. The FCC will decide if its able to circumvent state laws that have been put in place restricting the practice.
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Two Cities Ask the FCC To Preempt State Laws Banning Municipal Fiber Internet

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  • Vote (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @08:13AM (#47529977)

    Vote out the scumbags at the state capitol that passed such a law

    • Re:Vote (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @08:26AM (#47530041)

      But what about if every politician you get to pick from is all spouting the same BS about why municipal broadband is bad?
      Who do you vote for then?

      • Re:Vote (Score:5, Insightful)

        by FictionPimp ( 712802 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @08:32AM (#47530055) Homepage

        Then you run for office.

      • by pereric ( 528017 )
        Have you checked the Greens? They tend not be as involved in corporate welfare and - coincidentally(?) not really take much financing from such corporate entities ...
        • On the other hand, they oppose building broadband, or anything else. The level of regulation they want pretty much means we'd be headed back to the stone age. Further, their policies would make it much, much harder for independent ISPs because their platform is that the government should do everything, and the government is controlled by the big corporations. So while it's not their intent, their policy proposals actually strongly favor the large established corporations by their effects.

          • by mspohr ( 589790 )

            Nice troll but, of course, completely wrong.
            You could have spent a minute and actually read the Green Party platform but then you wouldn't have been able to post your rant.
            For instance, your assertion that they support big government and corporations controlling everything is directly contradicted by this statement in their platform:
            "Since governments too often have an interest in controlling the flow of information, we must constantly guard against official censorship. In our society however, large corpora

            • Let's try this one more time, because clearly you missed the entire point. I'm familiar with their platform, and with the actual effects of the policies they advocate, which are frequently the opposite of their stated goals. Let me copy / paste the thesis from my post again since you seem to have missed reading it the first time:

              > so while it's not their intent, their policy proposals actually strongly favor the large established corporations by their effects.

              To avoid to much redundancy, I'm going to st

      • Maybe start by asking why they are all spouting the same nonsense. Then conclude that it's because we have stupid voters who tolerate it. Then move.
    • Re:Vote (Score:5, Insightful)

      by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @09:27AM (#47530495) Homepage Journal

      And, when, as is the case in North Carolina, those scumbags have gerrymandered both parties into "safe" districts, with the party most responsible having over 50% of the state as such?

      What then?

      Protest at the capital where they arrest hundreds of people on trumped up charges? Become a violent revolutionary over a tiny infrastructure debate?

    • Re:Vote (Score:4, Informative)

      by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @10:13AM (#47530935)

      Vote out the scumbags at the state capitol that passed such a law

      This is a very complex issue and has very little to do with the topics you're probably concerned with.

      I'll burn up even more Karma educating the ill-informed.

      Back when Telephones were a new thing, the government wanted to push their expansion to everyone in the country. It was seen in the same light that we see the internet today. A huge economic boost that would be the most beneficial in rural areas.

      First the government just mandated "If you serve here you have to serve rural areas!!!" That went over like a lead balloon. Businesses just refused to install anything. The problem is that one company would come in and do what the government wanted, install service in the profitable city centers, then raise prices for those people to offset the costs of servicing rural customers who are extremely unprofitable to serve. But, rural customers having telephone service is, in the long run, more profitable for society as a whole. But then a competitor would come in and install only for the profitable business centers and drag their feet on installing the rural customers. Able to offer the business parks a cheaper rate, they'd drive the first company out.

      So an agreement was struck. The local municipality would sell the telephone company a "franchise" or whatever the term in your local area is. Often this is called a "Monopoly" by the ill informed, but it's anything but that. This agreement comes with heavy burdens for the telephone company. They agree to provide service to everyone, at the same price. (differences exist for commercial and residential) They can not charge you more based on where you live. They also agree to provide service for a period of time, and they cannot abandon this obligation without approval from the municipality. In return, they retain exclusive rights to provide twisted pair copper service in that area.

      They do have competitors... LOTS of competitors. Your local cable company, other phone companies, wifi providers, and on and on. It may seem as if there is a monopoly because where you live there is only one option.

      Here's the key point to all of this: If you only have one option for a phone company that's because it's unprofitable to serve the area you live in. The only reason you have a phone company option at all, is because they are forced by that franchise agreement to serve you. If the Monopoly you're complaining about did not exist, you would have no phone service at all. None. There are hundreds of phone companies in this country, if it were profitable to provide you service, you'd have a lot of options. Go to any telephone company website, find their get a quote section and put in an address for the local buisness park around you. You'll have dozens of options for service. Alternatively, the easiest way to see where its profitable to provide service is to simply look at your local cable companies footprint. Cable companies are not under the franchise obligations. They only serve areas that are profitable. That footprint is very tightly held within the profitable part of town. Outside that the phone company is losing money.

      Now, recently, some municipalities have tried to start their own fiber services. The fact that they are leaving out in these projects is where they are targeted. I've seen dozens of them (I work for a telco) and in every single case the local town is trying to instal Fiber to a local business park to attract new business. A noble idea, but the fact of the matter is, that business park in almost every case is the only profitable part of the entire town. (most towns that try this are relatively small) The park is paying for everyone elses phone service! If they suddenly had virtually free fiber service, the town suddenly becomes a huge expense to the telco. They'll refuse to sign the next franchise agreement and the town will be stuck with maintaining the infrastructure themselves.

      If you support this sort of thing you have to realize that what you're supporting is lower prices for businesses, poorer service for everyone else and probably a lot of rural service loosing standard pots service and internet all together.

      • Re:Vote (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @11:55AM (#47531851)

        But, as telcos love to point out, broadband is NOT phone service. It is not subject to the same regulations. That's why they were able to provide it to some neighborhoods and not others. And price it any way they wanted. And maintain it in whatever crappy manner they wanted.

        So now the municipality steps in and says, "We can play that game too." We'll pick and choose where we want to run our fiber.

        Oddly enough, the argument that municipalities will end up runnig fiber only to the most lucrative areas undermines the telco's arguments. If the city couldn't get the telco to run fiber there, what chance do they have to get it run to less profitable areas?

      • Or mention of Verizon rigging on their deal with the state of New Jersey after collecting Billions of dollars from Jersey tax payers.

        FYI competition mean competition within an industry not between industries. So for example AT&T and Verizon are competitors. Time Warner Cable and Direct TV would not be considered competitors to AT&T and Verizon.

        Somebody needs to educate themself.
      • Here's the key point to all of this: If you only have one option for a phone company that's because it's unprofitable to serve the area you live in.

        You're full of shit. I live in a wealthy suburb of San Francisco and have almost no Internet service options (which is what we're talking about in this article - Internet service). Any provider not hamstrung by regulations favoring incumbents would make an absolute killing here. Comcast has the monopoly (I don't care what you call it) on high speed Internet access in my area and has refused to do anything with it except raise prices through the roof while making my Netflix stream play like ass.

        While I sympa

      • Re:Vote (Score:4, Interesting)

        by weslocke ( 240386 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @02:49PM (#47533569)

        I don't know about the rest of the country, but since I'm currently sitting in the EPB market that was one of the two area submitted to the FCC I'll have to disagree with you.

        Our entire local service area is (more or less) fiber ready, with full speed access available from office complexes down to lower-income residential areas. The sections that initially rolled out weren't "Come to our city" showplaces, but instead established areas both commercial and residential.

        At my home (in an average suburban neighborhood) I pay _I believe_ $70/mo for gigabit access (which btw is bidirectional... I test out at around 930mbps both upstream and downstream to the EPB central servers).

        And since this is Chattanooga, there are plenty of backwoods trailers and rural houses that are really enjoying their new high speed access without having to be in a "highly profitable" section of town.

        And believe me, the areas here and there that don't have access yet are pretty much champing at the bit to get it and be able to drop Comcast like a hot potato. (Which might I add, you should see the Comcast ads around here. They almost seem desperate, but that might just be personal bias) ;)

      • Your argument may have merit in rural areas (quite frankly, I don't know). But in the two biggest metropolitan areas in California, I haven't seen more than one service provider for cable, and one service provider for DSL. When I called the company that didn't offer service, they specifically said "that's [X Company]'s area, so by agreement we can't serve there." What competition are you talking about?
      • by bigpat ( 158134 )

        Often this is called a "Monopoly" by the ill informed, but it's anything but that.

        Was with you up until that point. Maybe when these "burdens" in return for a franchise were conceived they were considered onerous, but now with regulatory capture they really do result in local monopolies and are often in effect exclusive of competition. And basically all the companies have to do is pick and choose which communities they serve and then the burden is something like providing the local schools and the Town with free connections and maybe they will throw in some money for a local access cab

    • The bill itself along with the record of its changes as well as who sponsored and voted for it can be found on the North Carolina General Assembly's website [].
    • by Nimey ( 114278 )

      How do you propose to do that? The districts are gerrymandered to hell and back to favor one party or another and most people don't vote in primaries, so the primary becomes both a UGG ME MORE EXTREME THAN OTHER GUYS contest and the de-facto general election.

      The way the country is at this moment you're apt to wind up with a state house full of teabaggers, and while that will at least be different it would be overall worse.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @08:42AM (#47530117) Homepage
    A tale of two cities who subsequently found their mayors and city council ousted in the next election by a multi million dollar political campaign whos donors coincidentally happen to be in "battled attempts to create community broadband networks." These cities later rescind their request, disband the municipal network, and offer local cable companies a grant for unspecified improvements. cable rates increase, another batch of phone support goes to india, and somewhere, in a tropical land far away, a man on a yacht begins a tireless and agonizing journey into the wineroom to select an elusive vintage that can pair with both lobster as well as filet mignon.
  • Go Greenlight (Score:5, Informative)

    by poeman ( 60885 ) <> on Friday July 25, 2014 @08:49AM (#47530163) Homepage

    As a Wilson Resident, I can say confidently...

    The local bank (BB&T) couldn't get speeds fast enough to do business.
    The city ran fiber and put in great speeds - residential basic is 10/10 and business is even better.

    Time Warner - the local incumbent cable cried bloody murder while they offered nothing close.

    Any problems? call a local number and talk to someone local and problem gets solved.

    • North Carolina has been passing some batshit crazy laws ever since the Republicans managed to get a large enough number of seats to run the show as they please. I had hoped that they would fix some of the problems with the batshit things that had been piling on before them, but instead they made things ten times worse. I hate both parties. They're equally scummy. It makes one feel powerless to know that voting the bums out always means voting more bums in that are not any better in the end.

      Back on topic,
      • How are the two major parties equally scummy when by your own statement the Republicans made things ten times worse than the Democrats?

        • Re:Go Greenlight (Score:4, Informative)

          by Jody Bruchon ( 3404363 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @09:58AM (#47530787)
          Because the Democrats had already managed to royally fuck things up before the Republicans showed up. Hell, the NC Democrats started the process of ruining NC broadband in the first place. [] Granted, there's an equal number of "R" sponsors listed...but look at who wrote it up in the first place.

          Also of interest to readers of this post: a blog the City of Wilson started [] when they got fed up and took things into their own hands.
        • They're equally scummy because both of them are willing to sacrifice whatever ethics and morals they claim to have and will buttfuck the public whenever they get a check that is big enough. It doesn't matter who started this, or who continued that, it doesn't really matter who was at the plate when the check came in. Neither of them are willing to stand up to corporations and actually have the integrity to say, sorry, I can't accept that money because I have an ethical problem with it, and I'm also going

      • .... I hate both parties. They're equally scummy. It makes one feel powerless to know that voting the bums out always means voting more bums in that are not any better in the end.

        You've bought in to the lie that there are only two parties. Look beyond the Republicans and Democrats and you might find better bums.

        • I vote Libertarian when candidates are available for a position. The problem is that everyone else doesn't. Those people are what's wrong with the political process.
          • I also vote Libertarian when I can; I am a card-carrying member of the Libertarian party. When I can't, and I'm too lazy to run myself, I do enough research to figure out who is the current office-holder, and vote for his opponent. If he is the only person on the ballot for the position, I leave the line blank.

        • by Nimey ( 114278 )

          You'll have to change the system before third parties become viable in this country. First Past the Post has to go, as does letting politicians draw their own goddamn district boundaries.

          • You'll have to change the system before third parties become viable in this country. First Past the Post has to go, as does letting politicians draw their own goddamn district boundaries.

            Not necessarily. Even with the disadvantages you cite, the original two US political parties, the Whigs and the Federalists, were toppled. It can happen again. Even without de-throning the Republicans and Democrats, a third party can gather enough support to make the difference in a close contest, and that causes the major parties to give at least lip service to their concerns.

  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @08:50AM (#47530173) Journal

    Aren't these two states, Tennessee and North Carolina, states who routinely harp on federal government interference in states rights?

    Now they're asking the federal government to override what their own state governments have said.

    Reminds me of Texas where that company blew up because they were storing exorbitant amounts of explosive materials and which had never bothered to be regulated because, you know, regulations are evil. Once the place blew up, Gov. Perry says "Texans take care of their own" then proceeded to whine how their request for federal disaster aid was (initially) rejected.

    It would be nice if people had some sort of internal consistency. Either the federal government is too big and needs to stop weedling into state government, or it's not.

    I can't wait to hear how those who say there is no need for net neutrality will react to their own states asking for just that.

    • Re:I'm confused (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thaylin ( 555395 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @09:12AM (#47530357)
      The problem is that, at least in NC, the hypocrisy of the states rights group is large and thick. They dont want federal involvement in state affairs, but the state has no problem taking rights away from the cities, counties and other municipalities, same as they account the federal government. This is a local city trying to get the feds to stop the state governments abuse of power.
      • States Rights has always been nothing more than a tool used by people who want something. Usually what they want is to take something from other people. They would just as easily use religion, economics, erroneous statistics, philosophy, or any other intellectual tool they could find.

        IMHO, ultimately states don't have rights any more than corporations do. PEOPLE have rights. The PEOPLE should have the right to freely associate and provide broadband. If they want to do that through their city government,

        • by Nimey ( 114278 )

          "States Rights" is almost always shorthand for "the state should be free to oppress you, but the feds had better not try to oppress you or put a stop to the state oppressing you". There's a reason why the Southern racists kept talking about states rights.

    • by div_2n ( 525075 )

      Chattanooga is a city that has quite a few very wealthy interests that wanted to better their community because they would benefit too. The people that you might normally think of as being against such a venture were not. The broadband is just one piece of the puzzle of investments that have been made with open arms of power brokers.

      If you were to have visited it 10 or 15 years ago and then came back today, you'd swear that you were in a different city. The transformation has been nothing short of amazing.

  • Since when does the FCC have the power to "preempt" laws?

    • by alen ( 225700 )

      internet is interstate commerce since the data will cross state lines, which means its subject to federal regulation

      anything that goes on strictly inside the state is not subject to federal regulation

      • by thaylin ( 555395 )
        There are lots of things that happen within state lines that fall subject to federal regulations...
        • by swb ( 14022 )

          Welcome to a law school! I see you have chosen extended scholarship on the history, scope and meaning of the US Constitution's Commerce Clause.

          Please see the law librarian for a beginniner's biography to begin your studies.

          • by thaylin ( 555395 )
            I am not just talking about the commerce clause... A state cannot just build a nuclear reactor, even if they are not going to sell the electricity across state lines, without NRC approval. The EPA can have a say in spills inside a state...
            • by swb ( 14022 )

              But all the magic comes from the Commerce Clause.

              You can't build a nuclear reactor without importing components for it across state lines. It starts there. I'd also imagine that NRC and EPA approval would also stem from (mostly) reasonable arguments that the natural environment (wind, water, etc) is inherently interstate and that any risk from a nuclear accident would have interstate impact. Probably some justification on national security grounds relative to radioactive materials as well.

              The same thing

    • by plover ( 150551 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @09:18AM (#47530407) Homepage Journal

      Since when does the FCC have the power to "preempt" laws?

      Since their founding. Your city cannot pass a law permitting the operation of a 200kW tower broadcasting white noise at 2.4 GHz. It's why the FCC exists.

    • When a state law and a federal conflict one of them has to win. If the federal law is within the powers delegated to the federal government then it will (yeah, yeah, as if there are any in practice limits to federal law these days...).

      In this case there's a federal law stating:

      The Commission and each State commission with regulatory jurisdiction over telecommunications services shall encourage the deployment on a reasonable and timely basis of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans (includi

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 25, 2014 @09:40AM (#47530597)

    Separate the wire to the house from the service that runs on that wire. The problem will be solved.

    Internet providers can still be internet providers, they do not have to be wire maintainers too.

    The part that really gets me is the monopoly is maintained and perpetuated by these companies. It costs $X to install and maintain the wires in a community. Over time, the people in that community will pay $X regardless if Verizon does it, Comcast does it, Cox does it, if the home owners associations does it, or if the local government does it. Why not pay $X and let the local government or a third party handle the wires (which can contract out to Verizon, Comcast, or any number of third parties to actually do the work) and then the internet providers can compete for your service over those wires?

    I know there is more to this but to me, this just makes sense.

  • Do we really want an Internet that, with regard to the U.S. consumer, is essentially owned and operated by Comcast/Xfinity? Screw that, I say, the more competition that can be arranged the better, and the sooner the better.
    • by mi ( 197448 )

      Do we really want an Internet that, with regard to the U.S. consumer, is essentially owned and operated by Comcast/Xfinity?

      Whatever Comcast's failings, I wager, you'll find the Internet owned and operated by the government far worse. I predict mandatory "child-protection" filters, for example. Also, any time you violate the service terms (which will be copied from those of commercial providers), you will be committing a crime (however small), rather than merely breaking contract. Oh, and the tech-support wi

  • As a North Carolina resident--this past legislative session has been pure entertainment, if not extremely scary. The legislature has far more pressing matters to deal with then stimulating growth and ensuring our state has the latest in technology offerings. Not sure if you folks have been paying attention but women are making their own decisions regarding birth control and pregnancy and to top off the gays are trying to get married!! Who can think about prosperity in times like these!! If not for our conse
  • Roads (and rail-roads), health-care, electricity and telephone — government and government-sanctioned monopolies provide such outstanding services, only a fool or a sell-out would try to prevent their scope from expanding. Tokyo may have competing privately-owned subway lines, but we here in America know better than that!

    Take Municipal WiFi — which the young and progressive generation was hailing on this very site only 10 years ago — was not that a roaring success, that swept over the nat

  • You have to remember that corporations spend good money bribing politicians to buy these laws. This is pure free enterprise. I'm sure that the Supreme court will uphold the right of corporations to buy our politicians... after all, they are the defenders of corporations.

  • by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @01:14PM (#47532611)
    In the few enlightened enclaves in a blood red sea, they should invoke the idea of Cities' Rights, that the hoity-toity, high-falutin' 'State Government' can't tell us how to run our lives!

    Local Control can cut both ways, oh Sons of the Confederacy.
  • I work in IT (Solutions Architect). I moved from Chattanooga, TN to Denver, CO about 3 years ago. I pay more money for 30Mbps up and 5Mbps down on DSL in Denver than I did for 1Gbps up and 1Gbps down on FIber in Chattanooga. I also design IaaS solutions for companies in the Denver area, the same thing I did in Chattanooga. I had an easier time of it in Chattanooga than in Denver thanks to the county wide fiber and 300Mbps wireless. There are groups here that want to shift their current IT setup to colo

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