from the these-are-not-the-droids-you're-looking-for dept
One of the biggest historical supporters of these laws is CenturyLink (formerly CenturyTel, and before that, Qwest). From suing to prevent Utah towns and cities from using Qwest poles in 2005, to teaming with Time Warner Cable to pass awful laws in the Carolinas, CenturyLink has been a starring player in making sure towns and cities can't improve their own broadband fortunes -- even in cases where companies like CenturyLink refuse to.
At the receiving end of this behavior are towns like Wilson, North Carolina, and Chattanooga, Tennessee -- both of which have tried to build better broadband networks but ran face first into the handy work of companies like Comcast, AT&T, CenturyLink and Time Warner Cable. Both towns recently petitioned the FCC (pdf), asking the agency to preempt portions of Tennessee and North Carolina state statutes that restrict their ability to provide or expand broadband services. Instead of standing up for local rights or against letting lumbering duopolies write telecom law, politicians like Martha Blackburn sided with the telecom companies, pushing laws trying to tie the FCC's hands on the matter (you know, for the rights of the little people).
While municipal broadband opponents often try to vilify these efforts as "government run amok," the reality is that these towns and cities wouldn't be trying to enter the broadband business if we had meaningful competition driving better pricing and services. In a recent New York Times story exploring these awful laws, CenturyLink feebly attempts to defend itself to the Times, insisting that it's not building faster next-generation fiber networks -- because nobody actually wants them:
"We build our network to meet customer expectations,” said Bill Hanchey, a CenturyLink regional vice president who oversees government affairs. But customers are not clamoring for the speed provided by fiber, he said. "It does us no good to go out and build networks that customers don’t need or aren't requesting."The Times doesn't bother to challenge this assertion, and CenturyLink doesn't explain why cities and towns are trying to build better broadband if they don't want faster, better service. That customers don't want faster fiber is probably of particular note to the tens of millions of CenturyLink customers whose aging, expensive DSL lines (capped at 150 GB of usage each month, no less) struggle to reach speeds of 3-6 Mbps downstream.