Saturday, March 21, 2015

196.4 - Another good move by the FCC

Another good move by the FCC

I have talked several times about the issue of net neutrality, the idea that all data on the internet should be treated equally, including my pleasure at the FCC vote last month supporting a strong version of the concept.

But amid all the discussion about that, there was something else the FCC did that got missed, something that has a lot of potential to do a lot of good.

On the same day it voted in favor of net neutrality, the FCC also voted to overturn laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that restricted the ability of local government to provide Internet service to their own residents.

Chattanooga, Tenn., and Wilson, N.C. currently provid Internet service, but state government had prevented them from expanding to reach more residents. They filed petitions asking the FCC to overturn those laws limiting local broadband, which the FCC granted.

The telecomms of course hate public broadband because it interferes with their monopoly powers and their profits, and they have been lobbying state legislatures around the country for laws to block municipalities from offering public internet access, arguing simultaneously that it is unfair for them to have to compete against government-owned Internet providers and that such public projects are often expensive failures. Why it would be hard for them to compete against expensive failures is hard to understand - except that considering that cable companies consistently rank at the bottom in customer satisfaction, maybe it's not so hard to understand after all.

Because the vote was on the petitions presented, the FCC's action only affects those two states and such restrictions in any other states with similar laws are still in force. However, it does give strong indication that the agency would look with similar favor on other such petitions from other cities and towns.

This should not be considered in isolation but rather as the result of the huge movement of ordinary people to push for net neutrality - with the result that we or at least some of us may get meaningful internet competition or even, if we lobby our local governments hard enough, free local wireless services.

Sources cited in links:

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