Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
A municipal government cannot possibly hope to compete with well-capitalized broadband providers in a highly competitive market.For those unfamiliar with Heartland, they don't use the same definitions for common words like "competitive" as the rest of us do. In Heartland's world, "competitive" means a market in which one of our funders operates regardless of how much competition exists in it. So why do we need new legislation to make it even harder for communities to build the networks that the cable and DSL companies won't build?
Today, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which advocates for community broadband initiatives, is tracking more than 60 municipal governments that have built or are building successful fiber networks, just as they created electric systems during the 20th century. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, for example, the city’s publicly owned electric company provides fast, affordable and reliable fiber Internet access. Some businesses based in Knoxville -- 100 miles to the northeast -- are adding jobs in Chattanooga, where connectivity can cost an eighth as much.Though I encourage readers to read the full column, I love the conclusion:
Right now, state legislatures -- where the incumbents wield great power -- are keeping towns and cities in the U.S. from making their own choices about their communications networks. Meanwhile, municipalities, cooperatives and small independent companies are practically the only entities building globally competitive networks these days. Both AT&T and Verizon have ceased the expansion of next-generation fiber installations across the U.S., and the cable companies’ services greatly favor downloads over uploads. Congress needs to intervene. One way it could help is by preempting state laws that erect barriers to the ability of local jurisdictions to provide communications services to their citizens. Running for president in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt emphasized the right of communities to provide their own electricity. “I might call the right of the people to own and operate their own utility a birch rod in the cupboard,” he said, “to be taken out and used only when the child gets beyond the point where more scolding does any good.” It’s time to take out that birch rod.
The other is rural access lines; we have been apprehensive on moving, doing anything on rural access lines because the issue here is, do you have a broadband product for rural America? We’ve all been trying to find a broadband solution that was economically viable to get out to rural America, and we’re not finding one to be quite candid. The best opportunity we have is LTE.Whoa! LTE is what you more commonly hear called 4G in mobile phone commercials. The best they can do is eventually build a wireless network that allows a user to transfer just 2GB/month. That is fine for hand-held devices but it does nothing to encourage economic development or allow residents to take advantage of remote education opportunities. But even the CEO admits they are not bullish on LTE as the solution:
[W]e’re looking at rural America and asking, what’s the broadband solution? We don’t have one right now.Some may be wondering about "U-Verse" -- AT&T's super DSL that competes with cable in the wealthy neighborhoods of bigger cities. U-Verse cannot match the capacity or quality of modern cable networks but is better than older DSL technologies. But U-Verse is not coming to a rural community near you. For those who missed the fanfare last year, AT&T's U-Verse build is done. AT&T's lobbyists have probably forgotten to tell Georgia and South Carolina Legislators that the over 20 million AT&T customers without access to U-Verse are not going to get it.
Rogers’ legislation is exceptionally friendly to the state’s incumbent phone and cable companies, and they have returned the favor with a sudden interest in financing Rogers’ 2012 re-election bid. In the last quarter alone, Georgia’s largest cable and phone companies have sent some big thank-you checks to the senator’s campaign:Phil also refutes the supposed failures cited by those pushing the bill. Not only do such stories misrepresent what really happened, some actually cite EPB's incredible 1Gbps service as demonstrating that munis are out of touch. What else would you expect from the Heartland Institute, which made its name fighting against the radical claim that cigarettes are linked to cancer? Government Technology's Brian Heaton also covered the story in "Georgia Community Broaband in Legislative Crosshairs."
A review of the senator’s earlier campaign contributions showed no interest among large telecommunications companies operating in Georgia. That all changed, however, when the senator announced he was getting into the community broadband over-regulation business.
- Cable Television Association of Georgia ($500)
- Verizon ($500)
- Charter Communications ($500)
- Comcast ($1,000)
- AT&T ($1,500)
In addition, Mitchell [me] said that SB 313’s requirement of the public entity paying the same taxes or the same cost of capital as the private sector is another red herring.
"The private sector is handling this exceptionally well," Rogers said. "What they don't need is for a governmental entity to come in and compete with them where these types of services already exist.