Municipal Broadband Under Attack in Missouri


Municipal broadband networks are again under attack, this time in Missouri. Last week, state lawmakers in Missouri introduced a bill that would limit the ability of municipalities to support localized broadband networks. The text of the bill reads similarly to other ALEC sponsored bills aimed at curbing municipal broadband networks. ALEC is a lobbying group that advocates for business interests.

The bill allows for a small window of time for communities to consider and offer those networks through August 28 of this year, after that they would not be able to launch a network if a private company was willing to. Further, if the community did intend to offer a network they would have to place a ballot issue following a feasibility study and five year cost-projection.

The proposed bill amends existing statute pertaining relevant to local broadband networks. As CivSource has reported, several states have entertained similar bills over the past few years. In addition, to support from ALEC, the meausres have gained the support of local Chambers of Commerce. They also have substantial opposition including the communities themselves, and providers like Google.

Notably, President Obama will be outlining his support for gigabit broadband access in a pre-State of the Union trip to Iowa. Iowa has a gigabit broadband network provided by Cedar Fall Utilities as well as a municipal network offering. Other municipal broadband networks have also been successful in fostering localized economic development, and have seen support from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

The Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) released the following statement on Missouri’s proposal today – “The state of Missouri is the latest legislature to attempt to erect barriers to the deployment of broadband networks that are critical to the future of its local economies and the nation. High-bandwidth communications networks are the electricity of the 21st century and no community should be stymied or hampered in its efforts to deploy new future-proof communications infrastructure for its citizens – either by itself or with willing private partners. It is ironic that while the International CES show in Las Vegas spotlighted hundreds of new devices and applications that require big bandwidth, legislation would be introduced in Missouri that would impair the development of networks that enable that bandwidth.

The hundreds of communities, companies, and private citizens that make up the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) urge the Missouri legislature to reject this ill-informed effort to tie the hands of Missouri’s own communities.”