The Introduction of the Community Broadband Act

The Introduction of the Community Broadband Act

To date, the Internet has been largely unregulated by the Federal Government. Now, there is even more of an effort to keep this a reality. Three Democratic Senators–Cory Booker (D-NJ), Edward Markey (D-MA), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO)–have created a new bill called the “Community Broadband Act.” This legislation proposal is designed to repeal state laws which prohibit towns, cities, and districts from creating and building their own broadband networks.

The catalyst for the Community Broadband Act was a letter transmitted by the Obama Administration to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) calling for local governments not to offer competitive Cloud and Internet based services.

As a result, this proposed legislation would give each municipality, in every state, the ability to decide if they wish to procure the services of a telecom carrier, or build their own entire network, in order to serve residential customers.

For example, as it is stated in the bill: “No statute, regulation, or other legal requirement of a State or local government may prohibit, or have the effect of prohibiting or substantially inhibiting, any public provider from providing telecommunications service or advanced telecommunications capability or services to any person or any public or private entity.” (SOURCE: http://www.fiercetelecom.com/story/democratic-legislators-put-pro-municipal-broadband-bill-table/2015-01-23).

But, with a Congress that is a Republican majority, it is anticipated that this bill will face stiff, uphill battles. The Republican lawmakers do not want to interfere with the current state laws dealing with Internet regulation. They also have interests to protect when it comes to looking out for the major telecom carriers, such as Verizon, AT&T, as well as Comcast.

But, the Chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, is a staunch supporter of giving local governments the ability to formulate their own broadband networks. In fact, in May of 2014, Wheeler challenged 20+ state laws which strictly prohibit towns and cities in the United States from broadband network creation.

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Valerie Stephen
valeriestephen@geo-tel.com