AT&T Attacks Municipal Broadband, Again


AT&T has opted to take a new path with the FCC when it comes to attacking municipal broadband. In a new filing the company submitted on Friday, they say that cities shouldn’t offer municipal broadband simply because they might get around to it at some nebulous future point. We were left to wonder if that’s the view they hold about all of the economic innovation possible when municipalities are allowed to connect to the world. Capitalism being known for its “we’ll get around to it eventually” ethos.

Ars Technica first posted the filing, which says – “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.” Of course, no one but AT&T’s accountants know what a reasonable timeframe is, but we’re guessing it has to do more with AT&T’s top line growth than demand for services in the market.

More notably, the filing goes on to say that only private companies are worthy of any sort of special tax treatment. Cities providing for themselves is unfair. “Indeed, any tax incentives or exemptions should be provided, if at all, to private sector firms to induce them to expand broadband deployment to unserved areas.” Examples of both rejected federal funds to build and unused tax incentives by this company notwithstanding.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has criticized laws banning municipal broadband networks, however, AT&T got a federal boost recently, with a bill coming from Tennessee Representative Marsha Blackburn which sought to curb the networks nationally. That effort was also notable given that Chattanooga, Tennessee was able to effectively provide municipal broadband after companies like AT&T opted out of network upgrades the city wanted.