Nebraska Latest State Looking To Roll Back Dumb Restrictions On Community Broadband
from the community-broadband-works dept
For years a growing number of US towns and cities have been forced into the broadband business thanks to US telecom market failure. Frustrated by high prices, lack of competition, spotty coverage, and terrible customer service, some 750 US towns and cities have explored some kind of community broadband option.
While the telecom industry routinely insists these efforts always end in disaster, that’s never actually been true. While there certainly are bad business plans and bad leaders, studies routinely show that such services not only better customer satisfaction scores, but better, faster service at lower, more transparent pricing than many dominant broadband providers.
Hoping to thwart this organic community response to market failure, big ISPs like AT&T and Comcast have waged a multi-pronged, several decade attack on such efforts: (1) by lobbying for (and usually ghost writing) protectionist laws in roughly 19 states either hamstringing or banning cities from building their own networks, and (2) by funding economists, consultants, and think tankers (usually via proxy organizations) happy to try and claim that community broadband is always a taxpayer boondoggle — unnecessary because private sector US broadband is just that wonderful.
But something happened during COVID. People realized it’s stupid to put these kinds of restrictions on the pursuit of better, faster, broadband. Especially if voters approve it. So Washington State and Arkansas either eliminated or massively scaled back longstanding restrictions in their states. Colorado also has been slowing stripping back these restrictions town by town.
Now Nebraska is hoping to do the same thing:
As reported by The Daily Nonpareil, Wayne’s proposed bill “would create a process allowing first- and second-class cities, as well as villages, to provide municipal broadband services if the city or village is in an underserved or unserved area.”
Granted, this still has to pass the state legislature, something that’s no easy feat when companies like AT&T (or regional cable broadband monopolies Comcast or Charter) have lobbied state lawmakers into a state of status quo beffudlement. Any attempt to role back such restrictions is met by a cavalcade of lobbying and astroturfed opposition.
In some states, these restrictions ban community broadband altogether, even if locals were to vote to approve it (basically giving Comcast executives in Philadelphia veto power over what your town can or can’t do). In other cases, the laws are designed to be a ban in everything but name only, greatly restricting financing options or where such options can or can’t be built.
Again, the COVID crisis highlighted very loudly how broadband is more essential utility than “nice to have” luxury. It also highlight how monopolization and corruption has directly led to market failure. Instead of making such efforts unnecessary by building better, faster, cheaper networks, telecom giants have spent 20 years instead paying state lobbyists to maintain perpetual (but profitable) dysfunction.