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Broadband Roundup: City Leaders Call For Overturn of Local Broadband Bans

in Broadband Roundup/Broadband's Impact/FCC by

WASHINGTON, July 28, 2014 – City leaders in Wilson, North Carolina,  and Chattanooga, Tennessee, want the Federal Communications Commission to pre-empt state laws that would prevent them from expanding their municipal networks, Broadcasting & Cable reported.

With an existing ban in place in North Carolina, Wilson can only serve its municipal network, Greenlight, to residents of Wilson County –despite having received multiple requests individuals out of its current service area. Municipal leaders said that Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 gives the FCC ample authority to overturn local broadband bans.

According to the Wilson Times, Mayor Bruce Rose said:  “The city’s petition seeks to remove the significant operational barriers imposed by the state law so that Greenlight can continue to thrive and serve our community. I have seen Wilson evolve from the World’s greatest tobacco market to North Carolina’s first Gigabit City. We have continuously invested and re-invested in public facilities. Years ago, our city council saw fiber optics as the public infrastructure of the future and absolutely essential to improve the economy, provide jobs and improve our quality-of-life. Greenlight has been a great example of the benefits that community broadband can provide for a city.”

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler confirmed that the petitions from the city leaders had been received, according to Broadcasting and Cable. The agency will review them and comments from incumbent broadband providers. Wheeler has previously urged against state laws prohibiting municipal broadband.

In a Thursday statement on the web site of the Coalition for Local Internet Choice, CEO Joanne Hovis said the debate over community broadband had to be taken nationally given the incumbent broadband providers’ heavy influence over state legislation.

“If a community wants to partner with a local ISP or build its own network to supply services that are needed in the community, should it have the authority to make that decision itself or should incumbents be able to circumvent it with anti-competitive state laws that work in contravention to local needs and choice?  We side with Wilson and Chattanooga and believe these decisions should be made locally,” Hovis said. “Fortunately, FCC Chairman Wheeler also agrees with us.”

The FCC also approved Frontier Communications’ acquisition of AT&T’s local wireline, broadband and video operations.

Frontier Communications, which has also received Justice Department approval, now needs approval from the  Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. The transaction is expected to finalize in the fourth quarter of 2014.

In other news, GigaOM reported that Verizon Wireless will throttle down LTE speeds for intense unlimited-plan users on busy networks starting Oct. 1.  Instead, Verizon will prioritize 4G customers who consume data on a gigabyte basis. Verizon said that few subscribers would be affected by this.

New Coalition for Local Internet Choice Aims to Spur More High-Speed Municipal Builds

in Broadband's Impact/Fiber/States by

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2014 – While interest in high-bandwidth internet is growing every year, many communities remain unserved because state laws inhibit local networks, according to local broadband activists. That’s why the Coalition for Local Internet Choice launched last month: to demonstrate the importance of giving local communities authority over their own networks.

“It’s hard to conceive of any community in this era having at its disposal the full range of educational tools, health care services, government services, and other essential aspects of modern American life without robust Internet access,” said CTC Technology & Energy President Joanne Hovis.

The internet is how people today build and promote their businesses, Hovis said. It’s how they work at home, participate in community life, and more importantly, engage in political and democratic discourse. Yet, many localities often have very few broadband options that offer good service at a reasonable price.

CLIC’s goal is to show that communities adopting their own strategy have greater access to educational resources, better economic development and productivity, lower prices, and more job opportunities, said Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks program at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Many localities are actually excluded, Mitchell added, from forming partnerships with private partners to build their own networks. Thus, they’re often left with either an inefficient incumbent provider, or none at all because commercial giants won’t invest.

Nevada, for example, has erected barriers effectively banning small community owned networks. Cities like Chattanooga, Tennessee, on the other hand, have opened the door for an abundance of opportunities, Hovis said. That has led to next-generation internet access of robust fiber networks.

“According to the [national broadband] map, it may look like my wife’s parents have good service, but they don’t and are being asked to pay a large amount of money for poor access on slow [digital subscriber line service],” said Mitchell. “They would subscribe if they had a good choice available at a decent price.”

Given the coalition’s infancy, CLIC is in the preliminary stages of developing specific long-term goals. For now, Hovis said, CLIC is focused on following the FCC in its efforts to preempt bans on community-owned networks.

“We are confident that the demand for high-quality services is there,” Hovis said. “The country has never been more aware of the importance of this infrastructure for economic activity and democratic discourse. Demand without availability is a big problem, and we’re trying to address the availability side by saying that localities shouldn’t be restricted.

Mitchell said that CLIC doesn’t support any particular outcome. While more interest may be expressed over time in local networks, it doesn’t mean commercial networks won’t coexist with community-owned networks.

“I do think we will have a wide range of different kinds of network owners, network operators, and services,” Hovis said. “CLIC is not saying one way is better than any other. Every community should be able to choose how it operates. Perhaps [a community] feels it has no need to do anything in this space. That’s just fine. Ideally, we will enable all models and they will all flourish because that’s how we will make up for the broadband deficit.”

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