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USA Today recently joined the growing list of national press to publicly support local telecommunications authority. In its February 16th opinion piece, the Editorial Board commented on the proposed rule being considered by the FCC that would allow local communities to chart their own course with no preemption from state legislatures:
The FCC should stand up to the broadband lobby and approve the rule. The laws in question have not been passed in the name of limited government but rather in the name of limiting competition.
USA Today recognizes that many of the communities that invest in infrastructure do so out of necessity when they cannot draw the interest of the big players that fight to limit their ability to make those investments. Whether or not a community decides to deploy a muni should always be left up to the people who live there, argues the Editorial Board:
The question, however, is not whether these systems are good, but whether they should be quashed by acts of legislatures. The answer is no.
The battle over broadband in Lafayette is part of a growing number of clashes across the USA that pit municipalities against telecom firms for the right to deliver Web access to homes and businesses. More than 150 local governments across the country have built or are planning to build cyber networks, says Christopher Mitchell of the Washington-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a non-profit group that advocates community development and local access to technology. Mitchell says those efforts often draw opposition in the form of misinformation campaigns, lawsuits from private providers or unfavorable state laws resulting from telecom lobbying. Nineteen states either ban cities and counties from getting into the broadband business — or make it difficult.Minor quibble: the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (and particularly my work) is not Washington-based. Like the toy in Crackerjack boxes, we cannot have a story about community networks without at least one blatant lie from some cable company employee. No disappointments here:
"Our initial objection was, and remains, that it is an unfair advantage for your competitor to also be your regulator," says Todd Smith, a Cox spokesman. "Many states prohibit government from competing with the private sector."I challenge Todd Smith to name one way in which LUS Fiber regulates Cox. When the local government makes rules that impact either Cox or LUS Fiber, such rules have to be non-disciminatory or they violate state and federal laws. If incumbents think the community is violating any laws, we know that they know how to hire lawyers and file lawsuits.