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FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler released a statement yesterday supporting the concept of local authority for community broadband infrastructure. Chattanooga and Wilson filed petitions to scale back state restrictions last summer. In his statement, Wheeler officially recommended the Commission approve the petitions. If approved, the petitions have the potential to liberate local communities from state restrictions.
Along with a number of other organizations that advocate local authority, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance supports Chairman Wheeler who said:
Communities across the nation know that access to robust broadband is key to their economic future – and the future of their citizens. Many communities have found that existing private-sector broadband deployment or investment fails to meet their needs. They should be able to make their own decisions about building the networks they need to thrive. ￼After looking carefully at petitions by two community ￼broadband providers asking the FCC to pre-empt provisions of state laws preventing expansion of their ￼very successful networks, I recommend approval by the Commission so that these two forward-thinking ￼cities can serve the many citizens clamoring for a better broadband future.
Chris Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at ILSR.org and the editor of MuniNetworks.org said:
The Chairman's statement is a breath of fresh air. This approach will allow communities with little or no choice in providers to take control of their own connectivity. When local communities have the authority to invest in publicly owned infrastrucuture without state barriers, more businesses and residents have fast, affordable, reliable Internet access. Even just the possibility of a community network can incent large scale providers to improve their services. We are pleased to see Chairman Wheeler both talk the talk and walk the walk of restoring local decision-making authority.
A statement of support quickly followed from the Georgia Municipal Association:
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance recently submitted comments on FCC petitions filed by Wilson, North Carolina and Chattanooga, Tennessee. We have been following the proceedings that may prove to be the tipping point in the movement to regain local telecommunications authority.
Our organization collaborated with eight other groups and two D.C. Council Members to provide detailed comments for the Commission's consideration. Our group supplied examples of the benefits munis bring to local communities. In addition to providing connectivity where the incumbents fail to meet demand, our comments point out that municipal networks encourage private investment. We provide concrete evidence of both.
With our partners, we also addressed the fact that state restrictions like the ones in North Carolina and Tennessee are not needed. Local communities must go through a rigorous, transparent process everywhere before investing. State legislative barriers are the product of intense lobbying from the cable and telecommunications giants.
As we point out to the Commission, municipal networks are an important tool to bring ubiquitous Internet access to the U.S.:
The Institute for Local Self Reliance has joined with Public Knowledge, Common Cause, and the Open Technology Institute, in submitting reply comments to the FCC last week as the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition (PISC). The issue at hand is the FCC’s proposal of new rules for how to govern the 3.5 GHz band, a range of the electromagnetic spectrum useful for many different types of communication.
The PISC comment focused on the importance of getting away from the long-standing FCC policy of simply auctioning off big slices of spectrum for telecom companies to use exclusively, which inhibits innovation and enables a monopolization of the communications marketplace. Verizon and AT&T, who hold licenses to large swathes of the spectrum already, are lobbying to FCC to keep the status quo in place. PISC (and ILSR) support a more open arrangement, allowing multiple users to share the same underutilized spectrum segment, while still avoiding interference. The full text of the comment is available here.
The language and policy of spectrum management can seem arcane to people unaccustomed to it, but how we regulate and use the electromagnetic spectrum has wide ranging consequences for almost all the technology we use in our daily lives. For a general primer on the importance and possibilities of a more open spectrum licensing policy, see the wireless commons articles we published earlier this summer.
You can view the full text of the PISC comment through the link below.
Common Cause, Network Neutrality, and the FCC Come Together in Episode 73 of Community Broadband Bits Podcast
We have reported on network neutrality many times in the past. This has been a policy debate on whether Internet service providers should be able to prioritize some content at the expense of others - should Comcast be able to charge me more to visit Fox News than it does to reach MSNBC? Should it be able to make YouTube videos very slow to load and unreliable unless I pay a special fee to access that site? This is the question of network neutrality.
Common Cause just released a "comic book" that takes a look at the concept, the political influences, and the consequences we may face if we lose network neutrality. "Big Deal, Big Money" also provides some options for action.A short snippet:
Read Big Deal, Big Money here.
Forbes' CIO Network carried this article co-authored by our own Christopher Mitchell and Todd O’Boyle, the Program Director for the Media and Democracy Reform Initiative at Common Cause. The same article also ran on the CommonBlog under the title "Debunking ALEC, Broadband Edition."
Why Communities Should Decide What Telecom Networks They Have
Not long ago, the United States led the world in broadband connectivity. Now we are in 16th place, trailing most developed nations. We need broadband policies that connect our homes, schools, and business to the 21st century economy, but we’re pursuing public policies that are putting us in a hole, helping private telecommunications providers and harming the public interest. As the old adage goes, when in a hole, stop digging.
Why is this happening? One reason is that across much of the nation, commercial broadband companies are using their political and economic clout to stifle competition, particularly from municipalities. Individually and through trade groups and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the industry is bent on shutting down existing publicly-owned broadband systems and blocking the development of new ones.
ALEC’s argument, detailed in a recent Daily Caller op-ed by John Stephenson, director of its communications and technology task force, is based on distorted and inaccurate claims that would be laughable if they weren’t part of a coordinated strategy to radically transform policy state-by-state.