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Municipal Broadband Continues Struggle with Telecoms

September 03, 2014

Municipal Broadband Continues Struggle with Telecoms

By Casey Houser
Contributing Writer

The fight is on between municipalities and private telecoms that both wish to provide U.S. citizens with ultra-fast broadband connectivity. Municipalities argue that telecoms charge too much money for too slow and limiting a service; telecoms argue that municipalities will be anti-competitive because they will be able to offer services tax-free. One website has outlined the telecoms' latest requests to the federal government to keep cities out of the game.

Tech news site PopHerald explained recently the allure for Internet users of wanting to download videos more quickly from Netflix, watch YouTube (News - Alert) videos in 4K resolution, and access Facebook with seamless connectivity. With some broadband connections, this simply is not possible because the connections are too slow. And for some people, the only service in town comes from the one telecom they are tied to. However, enterprises such as Google (News - Alert) Fiber and, most recently municipalities, are both trying to level the playing field by offering faster service at cheaper prices.

Unfortunately for some, however, corporations such as AT&T (News - Alert), Verizon, and CenturyLink are pressuring the Federal Communications Commission to step in and limit municipalities from offering broadband service to their residents. As TMC (News - Alert) has previously discussed, telecoms see municipalities as having the ability to offer services more cheaply because they can operate, for instance, without taxing themselves. This can allow them to undercut the competition -- the telecoms -- and create a system that is not fair for all parties involved.

PopHerald mentions that CenturyLink (News - Alert) said it is aware that municipalities can function to provide more than just access to fast speeds; they can also provide access to people in rural areas who previously would have been unable to get any broadband Internet. However, the telecom also states that the FCC's Connect America Fund, which seeks to provide public funds for broadband investment, can accomplish the same goal without providing such power to municipalities to control their own fates.

Yet, municipalities do not appear to be backing down. For one example, the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, which offers broadband service in the city, has said that "communities should have the right, at the local level, to determine their broadband futures." They have considered petitioning the FCC to remove restrictions that keep the group from offering service outside its electric service coverage area. PopHerald appears to be optimistic that speeds across the country will continue to rise over time; if that holds true, the only question that remains is which entities will be able to provide people with service.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson
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