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Big Cable & DSL are trying to
shut down broadband competition.

America Needs Better Broadband

To thrive in the digital age, communities need fast, affordable, and reliable access to the Internet. Unfortunately, the high cost and difficulty of building these networks has left many communities without sufficient access.

Because the private sector has not provided the connections they need, a number of communities have built their own next-generation networks — as recently profiled in Broadband at the Speed of Light.

Pressed by the power lobbyists of big cable and DSL companies, a number of state legislatures have passed laws that revoke local authority, taking the choice of whether to build a network away from the community. We believe those decisions should be made locally.

CLAIM:

Limiting Community Broadband Networks will spur private sector investment

REALITY:

There is no evidence that private sector investment has resulted from any state barrier. However, many communities have seen increased investment from the existing cable or phone company after the community built a network. Competition drives investment.

CLAIM:

Community Networks have unfair advantages

REALITY:

The many advantages of massive, multi-billion dollar companies outweighs any of the advantages any local town has. Local governments are already heavily regulated and cannot discriminate against private providers if the community builds its own network.

Decide Locally

Regardless of whether one believes a community should or should not build a network, that community should make the decision, not the state or the federal government. Local elected officials are closer to voters and local business needs than state and federal elected officials, who are more vulnerable to the lobbying of deep-pocketed special interest groups.

Big cable and DSL companies like Time Warner Cable, AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast, and Cox have long pushed bills in state houses across the nation to limit local authority to build networks or remove it entirely. They have put forward a series of misleading claims to justify revoking local decision-making power.

If communities have no power to build essential infrastructure, especially when private companies refuse, they are in serious trouble. Without the prospect of fast, affordable, and reliable connections to the Internet, communities have no prospect for economic development and are sorely disadvantaged in matters of education, health care, and quality of life.

When cities and local governments are prohibited from investing directly in their own broadband networks, citizens may be denied the opportunity to connect with their nation and improve their lives. Local economies will suffer as a result, and the communities’ ability to effectively address education, health, public safety, and other social issues will be severely hampered.
FCC Commissioner Clyburn

Current and Pending Threats to Local Authority

Several states are considering, or being pressured to consider, legislation that will erode or revoke local decision-making authority over broadband.

Georgia is considering HB 282, which would effectively outlaw publicly owned networks in the state. We have ongoing coverage under the HB 282 tag. The bill pretends to focus investment toward unserved areas but will actually prevent communities from being able to decide locally if such a network is a wise decision.
A Representative in Minnesota introduced what could be the most restrictive ban on community networks in the nation. Though it went nowhere in 2012, it continued gaining cosponsors throughout the session and will likely be introduced again in 2013.

Many States Have Already Weakened Local Authority

States in red have barriers to local broadband.

Nineteen states have created barriers to discourage communities to build the networks they need. Some states, like Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Nebraska have all but outlawed community networks. As more states consider barriers, we will track them and assist those who want to make sure communities have the opportunity to make these choices for themselves.

Time Warner Cable, AT&T, and the other big providers lobbying to kill any prospect of competition should focus instead on building the best networks they can, not preventing communities from deciding what is best for them at the local level.

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