Last night, GOP Representative Marsha Blackburn, introduced an amendment intended to destroy local authority for telecommunications investment by severely limiting FCC funding. The amendment, introduced during debate on H.R. 5016, targets 20 states, many with state-erected barriers already in place and/or municipal networks already serving local communities.
The vote was postponed but is expected today (Wednesday) at approximately 2:30 p.m. ET. Now is the time to call the D.C. office of your Representative and tell him or her to vote NO on this amendment. If your Rep has a telecom staffer, ask to speak to him or her first.
The text of the amendment is as follows:
AMENDMENT TO H.R. 5016, AS REPORTED OFFERED BY MRS. BLACKBURN OF TENNESSEE
SEC. ll. None of the funds made available in this Act to the Federal Communications Commission may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws with respect to the provision of broadband Internet access service (as defined in section 8.11 of title 47, Code of Federal Regulations) by the State or a municipality or other political subdivision of the State.
Wheeler has argued that those laws were the result of incumbent broadband providers using their lobbying muscle--he used to be one of those himself as president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association--to try to block competition.
Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), who rose in opposition to the amendment, agreed with Wheeler, saying that the issue is about allowing cities to operate without cable company lobbyists stopping them. He said the amendment was an attack on individual rights of citizens speaking through their local leaders. "This is to stop states...from choking grassroots competition," he said.
Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA), who opposes the amendment, sent out a statement to his House colleagues when it became clear Blackburn would introduce the amendment (emphasis Doyle's).
Municipal broadband offers a genuine opportunity to inject real competition into the broadband marketplace and gives communities an innovative set of tools that they can use to solve their own problems. Local communities should have the opportunity to decide for themselves how to invest in their own infrastructure, including the option of working with willing incumbent carriers, creating incentives for private sector development, entering into creative public-private partnerships, or even building their own networks, if necessary or appropriate.…
I urge you to VOTE NO on the Blackburn Amendment.
Local communities should retain the right to decide how to meet their connectivity needs whether through publicly owned infrastructure or through the private market. Rep Blackburn and those that support this amendment do not trust local communities to make the best choices for themselves. The FCC wants to ensure state legislatures do not impose their will as influenced by the telecommunications lobby. Call your Rep!