This week, the White House called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to remove laws in 19 states that limit broadband competition. Those states' laws have prevent competition, which has several consequences:
- Robs citizens of the freedom of local choice to form municipal broadband services,
- Prevents competition, which keeps Internet and broadband prices high and unaffordable for many Americans
- The high prices stifle job creation and new businesses,
- Consumers in many areas cannot get high-speed or fiber Internet access, and
- Often, the Internet speed is slower and not as fast as could, or should, be
The Broadband Fact Sheet by the White House mentioned several community success stories, including Cedar Falls, Iowa:
"Communities like Cedar Falls have banded together to commit to broadband that works by bringing in new competition, leveraging municipal investments, and forming new partnerships to bring world-class Internet to places like this small Iowa town. High-speed, low-cost broadband is paving the way for economic revitalization not just in Cedar Falls, but in places like Chattanooga, TN, Kansas City, MO, and Lafayette, LA — all of which have Internet speeds nearly 100 times faster than the national average and deliver it at an affordable price."
How did things get this way? Regular readers of this blog are familiar with the issues and the 19 states with local laws that prevent or restrict citizens from forming competitive high-speed, municipal Internet services. Those states: Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. While 72+ percent of households in the USA have high-speed Internet services, studies have proven that American pay more monthly for high-speed Internet services, and get slower speeds than consumers in other countries.
How did things get this way? Who lobbied for restrictions in the above states? PR Watch reported:
"The ALEC "Municipal Telecommunications Private Industry Safeguards Act" is a "model" bill for states to thwart local efforts to create public broadband access. Promoted under the guise of "fair competition" and "leveling the playing field," this big telecom-supported bill imposes regulations on community-run broadband that they would never tolerate themselves. Iterations of this anti-municipal broadband bill passed in 19 states to stop local governments in communities like Wilson, North Carolina from wiring their communities with fiber... At closed-door ALEC meetings, state legislators sit down with lobbyists for corporations like AT&T, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, Comcast, and News Corp to be handed changes to our laws that further the right wing agenda and directly benefit the corporate bottom line..."
So, the same political party that usually touts less regulation and free-market capitalism with competition have engineered a situation with more laws and less competition. And, the lawmakers in these 19 states went along with this charade to place corporate profits ahead of their constituents' (e.g., consumers') needs for the fastest and affordable high-speed Internet services.
But, it's even worse than that. There's also an effort to limit cable TV competition. PR Watch also reported:
"The ALEC "Cable and Video Competition Act" attacks municipal cable franchises and frees cable companies from oversight. The bill creates a single state franchising authority and releases the companies from requirements to wire the entire state, and allows companies to decide when -- or if -- to build out cable, and through that cable, to provide adequate internet access. In North Carolina, for example, the bill passed under the name "the Video Service Competition Act" in 2006 with the promise that deregulation would result in greater investment by cable broadband providers; but instead, the state is tied for last place in terms of the number of homes with a basic broadband connection. An estimated twenty-three states have enacted statewide video franchising laws..."
The White House suggested several changes and programse to address the high-speed Internet access problems. First:
"... President Obama is announcing a new effort to support local choice in broadband,formally opposing measures that limit the range of options available to communities to spur expanded local broadband infrastructure, including ownership of networks... the Administration is filing a letter with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging it to join this effort by addressing barriers inhibiting local communities from responding to the broadband needs of their citizens."
".. 50 cities representing over 20 million Americans have joined the Next Century Cities coalition, a nonpartisan network pledging to bring fast, community-supported broadband to their towns and cities. They join 37 research universities around the country that formed the Gig.U partnership to bring fast broadband to communities around their campuses."
In June, the White House will host an event to recognize these efforts and the individuals involved. The third change:
"... the Department of Commerce is launching a new initiative, BroadbandUSA, to promote broadband deployment and adoption. Building on expertise gained from overseeing the $4.7 billion Broadband Technology Opportunities Program funded through the Recovery Act, BroadbandUSA will offer online and in-person technical assistance to communities; host a series of regional workshops around the country; and publish guides and tools that provide communities with proven solutions to address problems in broadband infrastructure..."
If you operate a rural farm, are a recognized Insian Tribe, or operate an eligible non-profit, cooperative, or private company, then you may be interested in the fourth item:
"... Department of Agriculture is accepting applications to its Community Connect broadband grant program and will reopen a revamped broadband loan program, which offers financing to eligible rural carriers that invest in bringing high-speed broadband to unserved and under served rural areas."
The fifth and last change:
"...The President is calling for the Federal Government to remove all unnecessary regulatory and policy barriers to broadband build-out and competition, and is establishing a new Broadband Opportunity Council of over a dozen government agencies with the singular goal of speeding up broadband deployment..."
I applaud the Obama Administraton for making these changes and programs.
Will the newly Republican controlled House and Senate support these actions to remove and reduce regulations? The GOP usually supports actions to promote competition and reduce regulations on corporations. So, will the GOP support these efforts or cave in to the demands of ISP lobbyists?
What are you opinions of the above recommendations? Of the like GOP response?