Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Local Authority: what a novel concept at the FCC

The Chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, is recommending approval of two petitions to allow Chattanooga and Wilson to expand their network services beyond their original service area. Both of these cities offer municipal broadband services that are wildly popular among their customers and constituents. Each service wants to expand but cannot. Why?

Because incumbent carriers like Time-Warner and Verizon, became upset to learn that government can offer a superior service at a lower cost than "private enterprise" can. So they lobbied for laws that would prevent this scourge from getting out of hand and they won. For a limited time.

The petitions have a simple request: use the FCC's power to remove state laws that prevent communities from building their own networks as barriers to better service. I'm sure lawsuits will fly and Congress, at the urging of their masters (respondeat superior, right?), will try and find some way to defund this effort. But if the petitions are approved, the cat will be out of the bag and few in the corner of the incumbent carriers will have any power to stop it immediately.

Unfortunately, the FCC has much less enthusiasm about such barriers in other states, characterizing many of the laws in 21 states that have erected such laws as "reasonable". Nevertheless, if those petitions are approved, it will make headlines and will call attention to the problem.

Perhaps then, our incumbent carriers will realize that they are here to serve the people. Not the other way around.
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