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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:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by paiute ( 550198 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @08:20AM (#47530015)

    major cable and telecom companies have battled attempts to create community broadband networks, which they claim put them at a competitive disadvantage.

    Complete bullshit.

    No - they are right. Municipal broadband might have good customer service and actual high speed connections, which would be a serious competitive disadvantage to entities like Comcast, who do not want to have to match those.

  • 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.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @08:42AM (#47530111) Homepage
    I don't see what's wrong with having government have a monopoly on some basic necessities. The government has a monopoly on my local water utility, and they do a pretty good job of things. Electricity and natural gas are highly regulated by the government, and I'm very happy with the service I'm getting.

    In fact, of all the monthly utility bills I have, the ones I despise the most are landline phone, and cable tv/Internet. And those are both delivered by commercial entities that have a monopoly because they own the lines. With cable and phone lines, you can buy services off another companies, but they are just paying big corps who own the lines, making it so that there's really no way to escape them. And if you ever need your lines fixed, and you're with one of the other guys, the guys who own the lines make sure it isn't fixed quickly. Even with other connectivity problems, the internet providers are often just renting some racks inside the big corps data center, meaning even small configuration issues can take a long time to get resolved.

    I like my cell phone provider, because they've allowed smaller players to buy some of the spectrum so they can operate completely independently of the big boys, and they offer much better service, with lower prices for more features.
  • 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.
  • Re: Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Amtrak ( 2430376 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @08:51AM (#47530181)
    I was just about to say the same thing. I've lived in 4 different states and the Indiana DMV is the best run government office I've ever had the displeasure of working with. On a side note the Illinois Secretary of State was the worst.
  • can be done (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John_Sauter ( 595980 ) <> on Friday July 25, 2014 @08:53AM (#47530205) Homepage

    And when the municipal broadband costs 10x as much, just raise taxes and throw people in jail if they don't pay. And if the service is bad, again raise taxes and throw them in jail if they don't pay. And if they complain, just raise taxes and throw them in jail if they don't pay.

    Your competition being able to raise prices (taxes) at the point of a gun to pay for their bad business is a competitive advantage. Not being able to opt-out is a monopoly with the police enforcing it on citizens.

    Sure it might be better, but it definitely can be much worse.

    If you do a decent job of structuring the municipal broadband delivery company, you can bias it towards the “better” end of the spectrum. For example, you can require that there be no cross-subsidy between broadband and any other municipal function, and no support from general taxation.

    The broadband company would have to support itself through user fees, like the Water District does in my town. You pay a monthly fee if the fibre runs past your house. If you want to connect the fibre to your home, you pay a one-time connection charge, followed by a higher monthly fee plus a charge per bit for incoming and outgoing data. If there is a problem you pay to call Customer Service, and a higher price if the call requires a technician to visit your home. These charges would be refunded if the company decides that the problem is their fault. There would also be a service level agreement, and your costs are reduced to near zero if it isn't met.

    In addition, and this is crucial, there must be no legal barrier to someone else running his own fibre, and connecting it to the municipal system. He would pay the municipal system for his connection, of course, and provide his own customer service. That competition, or even the possibility of it, will keep customer service quality high.

  • by dywolf ( 2673597 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @09:06AM (#47530293)

    except most of these laws come from republican controlled state legislatures.

    Oh, you want a local internet utility to compete with your shoddy telco monopoly? Can't allow that.
    Oh, you want a local minimum wage higher than the state or federal minimum? Can't allow that.
    Oh, you want a local employment non-discrimination law? Can't allow that.
    Oh, you want any of a dozen other topics we oppose as a local level? Can't allow that.

    Welcome to the The GOP: the party of small government, handling things that lowest or local level...unless we oppose it.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plover ( 150551 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @09:07AM (#47530299) Homepage Journal

    Actually, communities tend to run infrastructure remarkably well. Look at water systems. When is the last time you were in a location with city water, turned on the tap, and nothing came out? (Assuming you weren't cut off for lack of payment, of course.) Towns know how to keep the water flowing. If a town is without water for a period of time, it makes national news. (Yes, there are developing nations that do not have potable water coming out of their taps. The US is not one of those nations, and this is a US topic.)

    Governments are not incapable of running such a program, and they are not inherently guaranteed to suck at it.

    Now, is this different because it will require tech support? Sure. Are cities prepared to deal with the calls, the service interruptions, the network attacks, etc? The cities that are asking are going into this eyes wide open. The FCC is not mandating that cities must carry their own networks, they are simply being asked to rule on a non-competition clause that unfairly prevents the city itself from providing said competition.

    I think the biggest problem the cable companies face is that cities now know exactly how much it costs to run a network, and it's nothing like the extortionate rates the cable companies are charging today. If the city has a competent manager leading the project, and good engineering staff, they will deliver fast data along with great customer service at a price that is not only going to be competitive, it's going to dominate. Everyone wins, except for the shareholders of the cable companies - and as they've been winning for a couple of decades already, my sympathy for their plight is not exactly overwhelming.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by StatureOfLiberty ( 1333335 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @09:08AM (#47530319)

    Sure it might be better, but it definitely can be much worse.

    Worse than no high speed broadband service? Wilson built their system because Time Warner and others refused to. So, the city decided to solve the problem themselves. When you refuse to serve a community, you can't complain about 'unfair competition' when they decide to serve themselves.

    (Time Warner thanks you for your loyalty)

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @09:21AM (#47530441) Journal

    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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • Re:Vote (Score:4, Insightful)

    by disposable60 ( 735022 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @10:14AM (#47530945) Journal

    I believe!
    I believe that contravenes the US Constitution's ban on religious tests to hold office (Article VI, paragraph 3).

  • Re:Vote (Score:4, Insightful)

    by compro01 ( 777531 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @10:39AM (#47531177)
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @11:22AM (#47531571) Journal
    Apathy is the greatest danger to democracy. If the voters did not care to know the issues, if the voters could be bamboozled by a few million dollars spent on an ad campaign and turn against the mayor who tried to help them, how can the be helped?
  • 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?

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly