After Legal Defeat, US Mayors Vow to Continue Municipal Broadband Fight
Sam Gustin reports in Motherboard:
Two weeks after a federal court dealt a major blow to municipal broadband advocates, dozens of US mayors and city leaders vowed on Wednesday to continue the fight for local control of next-generation communications networks.
These community leaders are speaking out after the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the Federal Communications Commission lacks the authority to preempt state laws that pose barriers to municipal broadband development.
In a letter to the mayors of Chattanooga, TN and Wilson, NC—the two cities that had asked the FCC to preempt such state laws—forty-two US mayors and local leaders expressed their “support and solidarity with your efforts advocating for the ability of all communities to choose the broadband solutions that are right for each of our communities.”
“We believe in aligning broadband options with community needs, instead of being hindered by restrictive, one-size-fits-all barriers sometimes put up at the state level,” the city leaders wrote. “While our paths vary, we are united by our commitment to competition and the right of self-determination for all our communities, free from interference.”
The letter, which was organized by Next Century Cities, a nonprofit group that advocates for community broadband efforts, was signed by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, and dozens of other local leaders from around the country.
The letter is the latest salvo in a multi-year battle that echoes one of the great debates in American history—the fight over federalism and the balance of power between the national government and the states. Supporters of the FCC maintained that Congress gave the agency the power the preempt restrictive state broadband laws. Opponents argued, successfully, that the federal government was interfering with states’ rights.
This battle is far from over. Cities across the country recognize that affordable, high-speed internet access is a powerful tool for economic growth, equal opportunity, and citizen empowerment. That’s why scores of cities are racing to develop faster, cheaper alternatives to services offered by corporate giants like Comcast that wield monopoly power in many markets.
But these forward-thinking municipalities are frequently stymied by roadblocks in the form of state laws that thwart community broadband efforts—laws that were often pushed by lobbyists working at the behest of the nation’s largest telecom companies, including Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T.
It’s no surprise that these corporate giants are opposed to local efforts aimed at delivering faster, cheaper internet service. After all, what business likes to be confronted by a competitor offering superior service at lower prices? . . .
There’s a lot more. Corporations want profits, not progress, and if profits can be increased by halting progress, they’ll go for it every time. And despite their lip service to the virtues of free enterprise and competition, corporations hate competition because it impacts profits.