This week, the FCC made an historic decision in favor of municipal networks in Chattanooga, TN and Wilson, NC. Chris was in Washington, DC to witness the vote, hear the testimony, and celebrate the hard work of several organizations.
As Brendan Sasso with the National Journal reported, "The issue is one of the most controversial that the FCC will vote on this year. But it was largely overshadowed Thursday by the even more explosive debate over net-neutrality regulations." We have full coverage of both decisions this week.
Municipal Broadband Decision
Feds Nullify State Laws on City Internet: Net neutrality may get more attention, but the FCC is also making a major push for community Internet service—a priority for Obama. This by Brendan Sasso, National Journal
"The bottom line of these matters is that some states have created thickets of red tape to limit competition," Wheeler said Thursday. "What we're doing today is cutting away that red tape, consistent with Congress's instruction to 'encourage the development of broadband' and to 'promote competition.'"
By granting the petitions, the FCC struck down the laws in those two states, but other state restrictions remain in effect. Other cities looking to build or expand their own Internet projects may soon file petitions with the commission.
By Jim Baller, of Baller, Herbst, Stokes, & Lide, who deserves tremendous accolades for this result. Jim has worked for decades toward this goal. It is not possible to imagine these decisions without him. Thank you Jim.
"This is an important moment for communities in North Carolina, Tennessee, and other states that have barriers to local investments in advanced communications networks. Not only has the Commission confirmed that it has authority to remove such barriers, but it has also compiled a massive record documenting the critical role that local Internet choice can play in fostering strong, vibrant communities and in ensuring that the United States will remain a leading nation in the emerging knowledge-based global economy."
By Kate Cox, The Consumerist
Speakers at the meeting all referred several times to the FCC’s Congressional mandate to encourage the deployment of advanced telecommunications nationwide on a reasonable and timely basis — a mandate that, the FCC concluded earlier this year, is not currently being met. Several speakers also made references to chairman Wheeler’s stated goal to protect, encourage, create, and promote broadband expansion and competition.
FCC Votes to Allow Municipal Broadband, Overruling Two States’ Laws: Commission’s move sets a precedent for consideration of similar petitions in future
By Thomas Gryta, Wall Street Journal
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and President Barack Obama have said towns need to be free to build their own networks if they decide it makes sense. Towns that explore the option generally do so because they believe private sector development of broadband hasn’t kept pace with their needs.
By Joshua Romero, Ieee Networks
“The competitive landscape is pretty bleak,” says Vishal Misra, an associate professor of computer science at Columbia University. He points out that at “true broadband speeds,” some Americans have two broadband providers to choose from, but most have only one (or zero).
When the FCC redefined broadband last month, it did so largely to highlight the lack of consumer choice at higher bandwidths. In general, ISPs prefer to invest in areas where they’ll be the sole provider, as it’s expensive to try to poach customers from an existing provider.
FCC Weighs Overriding state laws to expand broadband access
By Emery Dalesio, Associate Press
For Richard and Brenda Thornton, the FCC decision could mean a big savings. They live less than a mile from the service area for Chattanooga's Electric Power Board, which provides one gigabit-per-second Internet speeds. The Thorntons now pay $316 for landline phone service, Internet and television from wireless hot spots that two telephone companies offered. Their current connection is a fraction of the speed the Thorntons could get for $133 a month for the same bundle from Chattanooga.
The local cable company has refused to extend broadband service to their home, said Brenda Thornton, who likes to trade securities and commodities futures but can't do it because of the slow wireless speed.
"People don't realize how bad it is if you don't have a good Internet. Those people that have it, they don't even realize there's people like us that exist," she said.
FCC overrules state laws to help cities build out municipal broadband: 3-2 vote gives local broadband an important victory
By Chris Welch, The Verge
The FCC's 3-2 vote will serve as a landmark moment that other communities will point to as they try to compete against commercial ISPs and knock down those deeply restrictive state laws… Unsurprisingly, the cable establishment and entrenched ISPs have lobbied against this becoming a trend, with the opposition (and dissenting commissioners) trying to frame it as an aggressive overreach of the FCC's authority.
"We don’t take lightly the matter of preempting state laws," admitted Wheeler. But the chairman made clear this was a situation in which the FCC saw no other choice but to act. "The human faces of those who are condemned to second-rate broadband are a message to all of us.
By Brian Bergstein, Technology Review
The decision in favor of municipal broadband networks does more than “open Internet” rules ever could to increase competition in a broken market.
FCC trumps state laws on local broadband limits: A 3-2 vote is the first step in allowing municipalities all over the country to offer their own Internet service in the name of competition.
by Marguerite Reardon, Cnet
The reason this regulation is needed, the FCC has argued, is because competition is largely lacking in the broadband market.
The competitive picture looks worse since the FCC earlier this year redefined broadband as a service that delivers download speeds of 25 megabits per second.
By: John Eggerton, Multichannel
Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who enthusiastically supported the decision, likened municipal service to a broadband barn raising, an analogy that pleased FCC chairman Tom Wheeler. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn was also strongly supportive.
by Grant Gross, PC World
by David Purtell, Associated Press
by Michael Justin Allen Sexton, Tom's Hardware
Speaking in support of the proposal, FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn said that "Millions are trapped in digital darkness." Current laws restrict the growth of broadband Internet service, and the lack of competition often results in service fees being much higher than is acceptable. "Break down barriers to infrastructure investment so that no American where they live, no matter their economic status, will be stuck in digital darkness," said Clyburn.
by Lauren K. Ohnesorge, Triangle Business Journal
Mignon Clyburn, commissioner of the FCC, says current regulations have some stuck in a "digital desert," and that communities like Wilson should not be "denied the ability to respond to the infrastructure needs of their communities, particularly when the private sector has opted not to do so."
Some communities "literally beg" private companies to bring broadband. "Sadly, opportunities are being closed far too often, leaving citizens without broadband and leaders with few meaningful ways to address their needs," she says, calling on the FCC to level the playing field.
by Sam Oliver, Apple Insider
City News: by State
Cities that want to move forward with their own networks have several successful models to look at. Lancaster News in Pennsylvania published this update, and below are stories of several communities testing the municipal broadband waters:
By Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press
by Brady Dale, Commercial Observer
While it’s true that New York City’s size makes building a better Internet here vastly more expensive than it is for a Chattanooga or even a Kansas City, it also has economies of scale in its favor. This Thursday, the FCC will consider preempting state laws that forbid municipally owned networks. In other words, there may be many more Chattanoogas moving ahead of Gotham soon.
by Leoneda Inge, WUNC
The City of Wilson floated $35 million in bonds, a move approved by the state, in order to build its community broadband service. Wilson City Manager Grant Goings says they wanted a private partner to help, like Time Warner or Embarq, but those companies said “no.”
“We never set out to be first. Our motivating factor was not to be the first community in North Carolina or one of the first in the southeast to have this fiber to the home infrastructure. Our concern was not being last," said Goings.
FCC should topple NC limits on public Internet networks
by News Observer
by Darren Fishell, Bangor Daily News Staff
Proponents say the upside isn’t just attracting businesses. It would allow seniors to age in place using “telemedicine,” meet expectations and needs of people considering moving to Maine, and give a leg up to people and companies already in the state.
The Governor’s Broadband Capacity Building Task Force issued its report in December 2013 making the case for why and how the state should invest in new broadband capacity.
by Tom Groening, Working Waterfront
Voters will be asked at their May 9 annual town meeting to authorize borrowing $3 million to build a broadband Internet network for the island.
In a front-page opinion piece in the January/February edition of the Islesboro Island News, Arch Gillies, chairman of the board of selectmen, argued in favor of the proposal, asserting that such an investment "is today's equivalent to earlier town decisions to bring the telephone, electricity and cars to Islesboro."
Minnesota Public Radio
The question of whether to allow a second cable TV provider into Minneapolis is setting off a contentious debate. Minnesota Public Radio interviewed Chris to find out more.
The city expects to save nearly $110,000 a year by no longer having to pay for Internet access, VOIP phone service and air cards for municipal government. Officials also say the new network will allow them to read water meters remotely, which be more efficient than taking manual readings.
by Dave Flessner and Mitra Malek, Times Free Press
State Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, and state Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, are pushing a legislative proposal again this year to give Tennessee municipalities the freedom to expand high-speed Internet services outside of their electric service area, if local governments request the service.
"We cannot afford to wait with the need as critical as it is today for high-speed broadband service," Bowling said. "We're already behind the curve in many rural areas. Let us come out of the 20th century as small towns and join our sisters that are already in the 21st century with modern-day broadband service."
J.R. Lind, Nashville Post
"The 21st century version of electrification is high speed broadband, providing the same benefits in both eras: access to modern utilities for more people across the state decided at a local level," TMEPA Executive Director Mike Vinson said. "Just as local electric systems did then, municipal electric broadband helps to spur job creation, encourages innovation, and is a driver for economic growth, all by bringing modern services to their communities."
Currently, eight municipal electrical services — those in Bristol, Chattanooga, Clarksville, Jackson, Morristown, Pulaski, Columbia and Tullahoma — offer broadband service, with Erwin starting service soon.
by The Chattanoogan
TMEPA consists of the state’s 60 municipal systems which serve 2.1 million homes and businesses, or 70 percent of Tennessee’s electric customers. TMEPA is supporting legislation (SB1134 / HB1303) that removes the current limitation on municipal electric broadband providers that restricts broadband service to just its electric service territory. This change in the law would allow municipal electric broadband to expand to more areas where it is needed if those communities want it, the group said…
“High-speed broadband is the next utility of the 21st century, and municipal electric broadband should be allowed to be an option for more communities across Tennessee,” said Jeremy Elrod, director of government relations for TMEPA.
He said, "Today’s world has made high-speed broadband vital infrastructure that drives local economies, promotes economic development, increases educational opportunities and outcomes, increases regional and global competitiveness, and allows more opportunities for telemedicine, telework, and a better quality of life. Communities with fast internet service become attractive for private investment, and communities without it are unable to provide the modern services that businesses and consumers need and want.
Net Neutrality Decision
by Michael Weinberg, Public Knowledge
The rules voted on today will define the debate around an Open Internet for the foreseeable future and establish a strong precedent in favor of robust net neutrality protections going forward. However, for better or worse, they do not bring that debate to an end. While it is unclear exactly what the next step will be, this post is an attempt to briefly outline the possibilities.
Before the Vote:
Several outlets were on top of the decision this week, and if you need background, or to help friends and family understand the issues, we include these articles posted before the decisions came down.
By Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge
"Major media companies shouldn't be gatekeeping our internet access — speeding up some content, blocking other — simply because they're able to pay for it," de Blasio writes. "The FCC must not allow mega firms to stifle innovation, competition, and public goods through exorbitant price points for the speeds that drive the 21st century economy."
No fast or slow lanes for Internet?: Enid News
by Jeff Ward-Bailey, CS Monitor
The Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote on Thursday morning to reclassify broadband Internet providers as "common carriers." That would give the FCC the authority to enforce "net neutrality" principles by requiring those providers to treat Internet traffic equally.
FCC set to vote on municipal broadband rules, ‘net neutrality’ by Wesley Brown, Talk Business & Politics
What You Need To Know About Tomorrow’s Votes On Net Neutrality And Municipal Broadband by Kate Cox, Consumerist
How Proposed Net Neutrality Law Could Affect You by Christina Lavingia, Daily Finance
FCC net neutrality Vote Feb 26: Why you should care by Hannah Chenoweth, The Daily Athenaeum: West Virginia University
An open Internet is something that deserves strong advocacy from us all unless we would like to promote unfair practices and give away our freedom to corporations. Internet companies have been adversely affected by monopolistic ISPs for years; protection for these companies is far overdue. With net neutrality, our freedom to access websites and services stays intact.
by Alex Heath, Cult of Mac
“To me, more than anything else, this is a victory for the people, the consumers, the average Joes, against the suppliers who have all of the power and the wealth and make decisions for them and they feel hopeless and helpless,” Wozniak told Bloomberg. “And here 4 million of us signed petitions. It’s an indication that the people can sometimes win. We’ve had a lot of defeats over the years, but once in a while we get a win.”
Now it's Time Warner Cable's turn to insult a customer by Chris Isidore, CNN Money
"We are truly sorry for the disgraceful treatment of Ms. Martinez, and we apologized to her directly. Our investigation showed that this was done by an employee at a third-party vendor. We have terminated our agreement with this vendor and are changing our processes to prevent this from happening again," said spokeswoman Susan Leepson."
Comcast Still Sees Time Warner Cable Deal Closing as Planned by Scott Moritz and Kelly Gilblom, Bloomberg
Net Fix: 8 burning questions about Net neutrality by Marguerite Reardon, Cnet
With the FCC set to vote this week on new rules governing the Internet, CNET breaks down everything you need to know about complicated, but critical, issue.