Congress Agrees To Make It Harder To Get Competitive High Speed Broadband

from the because-who-wants-that? dept

Earlier we wrote about Rep. Marsha Blackburn adding a terrible amendment to a House appropriations bill that would block the FCC from preempting anti-competitive bans on municipal broadband. Unfortunately, despite some noise about it, the amendment it was approved 223 - 200 in the House. While Blackburn (falsely) spun the bill about letting local governments make their own decisions, that's flat out wrong. As others have pointed out it's exactly the opposite. The FCC's plan would be about giving power back to local governments to allow them to make their own decisions about whether or not they wanted to offer municipal broadband.

What's really incredible here is that, as we noted this morning, one of the most successful muni-broadband projects in the country is in Chattanooga, Tennessee -- not far from Blackburn's district. Tennessee, however, has an anti-muni broadband law that is preventing Chattanooga from actually expanding its service and offering it to more people. The utility that runs the Chattanooga fiber project recently made it clear it would like to ask the FCC to preempt the law that's currently blocking it from expanding its service. So, Blackburn is directly telling people in Tennessee that they can't get faster, cheaper broadband, and that their local governments can't help, because of a lobbyist-fueled bill in the state capitol.

If I were a constituent of Blackburn's, I'd be pissed off that's she is fundamentally blocking a path to faster, cheaper broadband. Thankfully, her amendment would have to be matched in the Senate, and that seems unlikely. But it still should make Blackburn's constituents question whom she's really representing here. The people who elected her, or the big cable company lobbyists? Wait, you don't have to answer that, because David Sirota has the details.
Such an outcome would be a big win for the private telecom industry, which might explain Blackburn’s central role in the fight. According to campaign finance data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, two of Blackburn’s largest career donors are employees and PACs affiliated with AT&T ($66,750) and Comcast ($36,600). Those are two of EPB’s private-sector competitors in Chattanooga. Blackburn has also taken $56,000 from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the lobby for the big telecoms.
So, that kind of answers that question, doesn't it?
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Filed Under: chattanooga, competition, fcc, marsha blackburn, munibroadband, preemption, tennessee


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  1. icon
    Whatever (profile), 17 Jul 2014 @ 11:08am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I'd argue that if any company wants to add their own infra-structure in a determined area then simply go for it

    It would be nice if they did so, but in a sense they become part of the problem, which is money spent on a solution that would only apply for their customers, and would not foster more competition in the long run.

    The real problem is the last time. It is actually fairly easy to get the rights to run fiber on the poles in most places (or underground where permitted). It's expensive but doable to run a big fat (but really skinny) fiber to a neighborhood and get it within a few thousand feet of a bunch of households. But it's infinitely more complicated to actually get a single fiber into each of those houses, run back to wherever you have managed to set up your head end, and get them actually connected. It's expensive enough that you won't install fiber until a customer actually requests your service. Lacking enough potential customers, it's very hard to justify that big fat (but really skinny) fiber that you ran to bring network to the area.

    Chicken and the egg, right?

    So the solution lies in how you address the last mile. Paying incumbents to upgrade their network is a dead end play, because they don't share and won't share without laws being passed that force them to - and it will never work well. So you have to find a better solution, one that fosters competition on a meaningful level and done in a manner where you can get TV, internet, phone, and security services for any number of providers AT THE SAME TIME IF YOU WANT. That is not a solution that any incumbent will install, it's against their nature.

    As for not mentioning successful muni fiber programs, it's mostly because there are very few. It appears one of the oldest and most successful is the BVU optinet thing in Virginia, but when they want $300 plus a month for residential gigabit service, I sort of shake my head. Their system is also closed loop "you gotta buy service from us" with no provision for competition, which makes them into another monopoly service, which is what nobody wants to see.

    It shows perhaps that there is a very big need to separate the final mile from the service providers. Build it and lease it to them, heck, make it mandatory for them to use it (eliminating more overhead wiring and maintenance). Win Win for everyone, no?

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