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FCC to look at laws that restrict local broadband


Frustrated with the sluggish speed and high cost of their Internet service providers, the residents of Wilson, N.C., decided a few years ago to take matters into their own hands – they would simply build their own connection.

The city council unanimously voted in 2006 to create a fiber-to-home network that today provides affordable high-speed Internet to homes and businesses, connects schools, and even supplies downtown Wilson with free Wi-Fi.

Incumbent companies Time Warner Cable and CenturyLink were forced to lower their prices and upgrade their service to remain competitive.

Four other communities in the state also launched municipal broadband. Such enterprises irked big-time providers enough that, after years of lobbying and a million dollars in campaign cash, North Carolina in 2011 passed a cable industry-backed law that makes it nearly impossible for any other municipality to do the same. (Time Warner Cable and CenturyLink did not return requests for comment.)

Two weeks ago, the Federal Communications Commission announced that it intends to take a close look at overruling such state laws, which restrict the ability of cities and towns to build their own broadband networks in 20 states across the country.

Good, I guess, or at least a little better.

Still, the lack of any over-all policy other than "Let the big boys do whatever they want and apply a few bandaids later" is pretty stunning, giving our world-ranking of #16 in OECD broadband penetration.

Why not put a big honkin' WiFi antenna in every Post Office in the country? People could pay their Internet bills at the same place they do their banking!

Anyhow, internet access is a public utility that's controlled by monopolies. So why not confiscate the entire infrastructure?

NOTE Is the #1 of the 12 Reforms, "Net Neutrality," strong enough? That handles the media reform, maybe that's enough. Maybe if we just enforced the anti-trust laws on the books, that would be enough.

No votes yet


quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

I think maybe I'm becoming paranoid, in the clinical sense. My first thought was that Comcast's justification for merging with Time Warner Cable is that it wasn't an antitrust issue because they already have monopolies at the local level. It can't get any worse, so it's okay!

If the FCC says municipalities can now do broadband, no doubt with conditions attached to make sure almost none do it, then theoretically there's no local monopoly and they can approve the merger.


Submitted by lambert on

Never occurred to me, but that doesn't make it wrong. I'm not world-class in the devious department, like these guys are.