Republican Senators Push FCC on Municipal Broadband

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A handful of Republican Senators have written a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking the agency to stop promoting the use of municipal broadband networks. Six Senators including presidential hopeful Marco Rubio apparently feel no broadband is better than municipal broadband.

The letter was reported on by The Intercept, and the arguments against municipal broadband read like the same ones ALEC has been making at the state level for years. Some of those arguments have already made it into state-level legislation, blocking the creation of municipal networks even where private sector providers have no intention to build.

The principal argument seems to be that the Senators are ok if private companies are getting universal service fund money, but they don’t like it if municipal networks use public money to just build a thing people need. The Senators cite recent decisions by the FCC to allow municipal networks to go ahead in North Carolina and Tennessee despite state-level legislative efforts to block them. In both cases, local residents broadly support municipal networks.

As CivSource has previously reported, voters in other states like Colorado are also pushing to build their own networks despite laws on the books specifically designed to make it difficult. In Georgia, where municipal broadband has been under repeated attack, even private companies like Google have advocated for municipal networks.

In the Intercept piece, reporter Lee Fang notes that “Rubio’s presidential campaign has relied heavily on AT&T lobbyist Scott Weaver, the public policy co-chair of Wiley Rein, a law firm that also is helping to litigate against the FCC’s effort to help municipal broadband.”