FCC Commissioner: Blocking Local Broadband Authority "'Exactly The Wrong Way to Go"

FCC Commissioner Copps spoke at the SEATOA Conference in Asheville, North Carolina, on Tuesday. He went out of his way to condemn legislation that would preempt the authority of local governments to build broadband networks, echoing a similar statement from his colleague, Commissioner Clyburn.

But he started with a discussion about the importance of broadband access to the Internet:

Getting broadband out to all our citizens is not just something that would be nice for us to do. It is something essential for us to do if we want to provide individuals the opportunity to live productive and fulfilling lives in the Twenty-first century and something equally imperative if we want our country to have a competitive edge in this challenging world.

But he moved on to highlight the importance of communities having the right to build their own networks, should they deem it necessary:

When incumbent providers cannot serve the broadband needs of some localities, local governments should be allowed--no, encouraged--to step up to the plate and ensure that their citizens are not left on the wrong side of the great divide. So it is regrettable that some states are considering, and even passing, legislation that could hinder local solutions to bring the benefits of broadband to their communities. It's exactly the wrong way to go. In this context, too, our previous infrastructure challenges must be the guide. The successful history of rural electrification, as one example, is due in no small part to municipal electric cooperatives that lit up corners of this country where investor-owned utilities had little incentive to go. Those coops turned on the lights for a lot of people! You know, our country would be a lot better off if we would learn from our past rather than try to defy or deny it.

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We strongly support his comments, while emphasizing that an incumbent that simply provides DSL or cable services must not be construed as necessarily serving the broadband needs of communities. Many of the best broadband networks in this country were built by local governments who overbuilt existing DSL and cable systems -- precisely because these last-generation networks were not providing sufficiently reliable, affordable, and fast access to the Internet for all businesses and residents.

His comments, made in North Carolina, come as H 129 sits on the Governor's desk. This was a bill pushed through the legislation by Time Warner Cable explicitly to limit the authority of local governments to build broadband networks. Its language purports to exempt rural areas without adequate service but was deceptively written in such a way as to actually exempt no areas.

If Governor Perdue does nothing, the bill will become law on May 18 20. We cannot help but fear this is the Governor's plan absent more attention, so we continue to join many others in calling for the Governor to veto this job-killing favor to massive incumbents like Time Warner Cable (who just happens to have donated over $6.3 million to North Carolina politicians over the past four years.

Contact Governor Perdue and encourage her to veto this bill.

Wally Bowen and Tim Karr just published an op-ed calling on the Governor to veto the bill:

How does a state that values independence, self-reliance and economic prosperity allow absentee-owned corporations to pass a law essentially granting two industries - cable and telephone - the power to dictate North Carolina's broadband future? This question will be moot if Gov. Beverly Perdue exercises her veto power and sends this bill where it belongs: to the dustbin of history.

Below, we have again embedded the video we created to highlight the impressive community fiber networks already operating in North Carolina, offering the best services available in the state.