Colorado Residents Wake Up, Vote To Bypass Protectionist State Broadband Laws

from the build-it-and-they-will-come dept

As we’ve noticed in the past, if there’s a place to start fixing U.S. broadband competition, it’s the nearly two-dozen state protectionist broadband laws written and passed by the nation’s incumbent ISPs. Said laws either hinder or outright ban towns and cities from building and/or improving their own broadband networks, even in cases where local private companies refuse to. In several instances, the laws even prohibit government collaboration with private companies in any way.

The laws are usually passed under the pretense of protecting communities from their own financial missteps, with assorted industry mouthpieces like Marsha Blackburn playing up the failures of a few select municipal broadband projects. Of course, like any business plan, these ventures can be built on solid or rotten frames, and several have been quite successful. In contrast, these protectionist laws take local choice away entirely, replacing it with mechanisms that do little more than insulate the nation’s lumbering broadband mono/duopoly from competition of any kind.

Fortunately, in the last year or so, these laws have started to see some renewed public attention as projects like Google Fiber have people clamoring for faster, cheaper broadband service.

Colorado’s 2005 state law hindering community broadband bills was pushed for by local incumbents CenturyLink (formerly Qwest) and Comcast, which, like AT&T, have a long and quite sleazy history of passing awful laws, trying to sue such operations out of existence, or engaging in misleading disinformation campaigns (like telling locals their taxpayer money will go toward subsidizing porn). In Colorado’s case, the 2005 law fortunately included provisions allowing locals to build networks if they call for an election. Last week, Boulder and six other communities voted to move forward with the idea of building their own networks.

Comcast is busy in Washington trying to maintain a clean facade in order to get regulatory approval of its $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable, so it didn’t challenge the efforts, something that helps explain the campaign’s success:

“How were they able to secure such a big victory? There might be some factors at work that are bigger than even Colorado. Comcast, the state’s largest cable provider, did not fight the referendum, perhaps because it is focused on getting its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable approved in Washington. (Comcast declined to comment for this report.)”

Like so many technology issues (net neutrality springs to mind), this issue of community broadband has somehow been caught in the partisan politics team cheerleading wormhole, even though letting a giant corporation write your state laws and erode local authority simply to protect its mono/duopoly revenues isn’t something either Conservatives or Progressives would support in a sane world. Refreshingly, a lot of the community revolt against these laws currently occurring in places like Colorado, North Carolina and Tennessee is being championed by Republicans and Democrats alike, who collectively (though belatedly) seem to have realized that better, cheaper broadband ultimately benefits everybody.

Earlier this year, FCC boss Tom Wheeler stated he’d be using the FCC’s authority to ensure “timely” broadband deployment to dismantle portions of some of these laws, though the net neutrality debate appears to have put the issue on the back burner. That’s a shame, since we’ve long pointed out that net neutrality issues are only a symptom of the deeper issue: a lack of competition. Dismantling idiotic laws purchased by ISPs to maintain that status quo is the very first place we need to look if that problem is ever going to be seriously addressed.

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Comments on “Colorado Residents Wake Up, Vote To Bypass Protectionist State Broadband Laws”

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Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think municipal broadband would be a very helpful alternative, I cringe when there is a suggestion that this project would be handled like roads.

I’m not sure where you live, but in CT, if fiber cables were maintained as well as our roads we would have widespread outages daily and they wouldn’t be able to support the traffic requirements even when they worked.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The roads are actually remarkably well maintained around here, considering that there is a strong force to defund their maintenance by continuing to reduce tax revenue. And yet people don’t seem to mind paying excessive amounts to private companies for broadband.

If people stopped this bizarre schizophrenic thinking about how we pay for essential services, there would be no problem with the government maintaining either roads or broadband infrastructure.

Jakespeed says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Gas prices are going down because of private enterprise and has nothing to do with government. In fact BO has opposed oil and gas efforts. Net neutrality is a scam. Remember when a government employee tried to claim authorship and then make a fortune on claiming global warming exists in his lecturing and public speaking. The government does not need to be regulating the free market or internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Not only should they do it the same way they pave the roads, they should be doing it AS they pave (or repave) the roads.

The one interesting aspect of the whole “solar freaking roadways” meme that happened earlier this year (?) was the power conduit that would have to be part of the infrastructure. Solar roadways are unrealistic and the idea seems to have mercifully fallen by the wayside, however the enclosed trench for power distribution could surely be adapted and used for municipal fiber distribution. Possibly even used for both, so the major electric providers wouldn’t be able to overcharge for delivery of electricity, which is certainly part of what is keeping renewable-energy sourced electric providers from being able to get into the game. That way ISPs and Power Conglomerates would all have to pay the same rate to municipalities to use the distribution network, instead of overcharging customers for totally made up (and never divulged) delivery costs.

Anonymous Coward says:

FCC boss Tom Wheeler

FCC boss Tom Wheeler

Wikipedia: Tom Wheeler

Thomas Edgar Wheeler (born April 5, 1946; Redlands, California) is the current Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

He was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in November 2013. Prior to working at the FCC, Wheeler worked as a venture capitalist and lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry, with positions including President of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA).

 . . . In recognition of his work in promoting the wireless industry, Wheeler was inducted into the Wireless Hall of Fame in 2003, and in 2009, as a result of his work in promoting the growth and prosperity of the cable television industry and its stakeholders, was inducted into the Cable Television Hall of Fame. He is the only member of both halls of fame. . . .

Cal (profile) says:

Re: FCC boss Tom Wheeler

The FCC was supposed to stop monopolies, but instead rewarded them and assisted them into becoming cartels which is treason and multiple felonies on the part of every person involved in the FCC over the last 34 or so years.

Supreme Court stated in Red Lion v. FCC in 1969: “It is the purpose of the First Amendment to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail, rather than to countenance monopolization of that market, whether it be by the Government itself or a private licensee. It is the right of the public to receive suitable access to social, political, esthetic, moral, and other ideas and experiences which is crucial here. That right may not constitutionally be abridged either by Congress or by the FCC.”

None of this is lawful here in America, but it is done because WE allow it to go on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Short attention spans

…the net neutrality debate appears to have put the issue on the back burner.

Priorities, priorities…

FCC to take more time on net neutrality following Obama’s position”, by Matt Hamblen, Computerworld, Nov 10, 2014

Following President Obama’s statement today backing net neutrality rules, the Federal Communications Commission said it won’t consider the issue at its December meeting and will put off rules changes until 2015.

“It has become plain that there is more work to do,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. FCC spokeswoman Kim Hart added via email that “open Internet rules will not be on the December agenda, [which] means rules would not be finalized until 2015.”

 . . . .

People have short attention spans. What’s going to be on the front burner in 2015? How many burners are there in the back?

Michael (profile) says:

Earlier this year, FCC boss Tom Wheeler stated he’d be using the FCC’s authority to ensure “timely” broadband deployment to dismantle portions of some of these laws, though the net neutrality debate appears to have put the issue on the back burner.

If they paid for the hyper-speed lane, they could do two things at the same time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If they paid for the hyper-speed lane, they could do two things at the same time.

Like getting inducted into both Baseball Hall of Fame and the Football Hall of Fame? If you’ve got a hundred-mile-an-hour fastball, how fast can you pitch the pigskin?

Maybe that example doesn’t really work: It comes down to only one thing.

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