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AT&T targets municipal broadband, asks FCC to squash it

2014-09-04 09:12 by
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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission should stay out of the way of states that have passed laws prohibiting or limiting city-funded broadband networks that compete with private services, several groups have told the agency.AT&T also recently filed its arguments against allowing municipalities to build out their own high-speed fiber networks to compete with incumbent ISPs.

"GONs [government-owned networks] should not be utilized where the private sector already is providing broadband or can be expected to do so in a reasonable timeframe," AT&T wrote. "Although many GONs have failed, or at least failed to live up to expectations, GONs can nonetheless discourage private sector investment because of understandable concerns by private sector entities of a non-level playing field. And any policy that risks diminishing private sector investment would be short-sighted and unwise."

State broadband isn't widespread, but local governments have sometimes built their own networks when service offered by private ISPs was too slow, expensive, or both. While there have been failures, there are also successes. Good examples for this are Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina, where governments are offering speeds and prices attractive enough that customers in surrounding towns have asked for service.

However, North Carolina and Tennessee are among the nearly 20 states that have already established rules to discourage or prevent local governments from building broadband networks that may compete with incumbent commercial Internet service providers, according to data compiled by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. The FCC has recently been open to public comments on two petitions from these states for preemption of state laws in order to expand some municipal networks.

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