Techdirt Podcast Episode 9: Is Muni Broadband A Monopoly Killer Or A Killer Monopoly?

from the the-debate-rages-on dept

Just this morning we wrote about a newly proposed bill that would stop states from blocking municipal broadband. This comes just a few weeks after President Obama similarly proposed having the FCC pre-empt state efforts to block cities from offering up their own broadband service. Muni broadband is often seen as a way to fight oligopolistic control of the broadband market by letting local communities offer another competitor (and often better, cheaper service). Critics, however, argue that local governments shouldn’t be competing with private companies, and we shouldn’t have governments getting into the broadband space at all. At the same time, they worry about the federal government stepping in to block states from making their own laws (though they don’t seem to express similar concern about states blocking municipalities from making their own decisions). This week on the Techdirt podcast, we discuss municipal broadband and whether it’s good government interference in the market, adding competition against incumbent legacy providers, or bad government interference in the market.

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Comments on “Techdirt Podcast Episode 9: Is Muni Broadband A Monopoly Killer Or A Killer Monopoly?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

As a general rule, other than providing basic infrastructure, the state should try to maintain a hands-off policy and only step in to the economic arena on rare occasions and to the smallest degree possible, primarily to break up corporate monopolies and provide a level playing field for free-market competition.

A good question is why fiber-optic lines are not automatically thought of as public infrastructure in the same way that roads and bridges are. And like roads and bridges, once lines are laid down, traffic should be open to any company that wants to do business over those optical lines, whether it’s providing internet service, ‘cable’ TV, telephone service, or anything else. That would be far better than granting one company a complete monopoly over those lines.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re:

^This. I would also add that where there is no private entity to offer competition, local government bodies, with the express consent and mandate of the people, ought to be permitted to do so. Sometimes only a local authority can provide the disruption required to provide consumers with a choice other than “take it or leave it.”

The function of the government is to act as the servant of the people. When it doesn’t serve us, it fails us.

Seegras (profile) says:

Competition, why not?

The way I see it, a ban for communities to operate and offer their own infrastructure, is a blatant effort of companies to kill off the competition.

Why shouldn’t I be able to group up with some other people with the aim of providing ourselves our own infrastructure? That’s free market. Banning people from competing is not. If a company comes in and can offer better services, well good for them and for us.

communitynets (profile) says:

Telephone poles and Google concessions

Hey guys, I enjoyed the show but I wanted to encourage you to dig a little deeper on this. Local governments cannot be blamed for the AT&T’s or an electric company’s refusal to work with a fiber deployer. The pole owner has broad discretion and local governments are not in the loop.

As for Google’s arrangements with cities, I always hear people talking about them in the abstract, nothing in the specific. From what I can tell, they aren’t that outlandish though some of them I think are difficult tradeoffs, like letting Google refuse to serve some areas of town where demand is low. That is a tradeoff that is worth discussing. But Kansas City and others have said they will give those same deals to others. The trick is just that TWC, Comcast, AT&T, etc refuse to invest in that level of service.

I’m not saying every local government has its act together on these matters. But the vast majority are doing what they can to encourage deployment. The big carriers previously claimed that statewide franchising was retarding investment so half the states eliminated it – but saw no change in investment patterns.

If you want to encourage competition, you should studiously ignore suggestions from the biggest carriers.

Toyoki Yoneda says:

Thank you for the interesting thoughts! Right now I believe people can do even more with this information. Even project like can make a huge benefits from this. I hope to see more updates.

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