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What Others Are Saying about Obama’s Municipal Broadband Announcement

January 23, 2015

After his trip to Cedar Falls, Iowa last week and State of the Union address on Tuesday, a growing chorus of voices have weighed in against President Barack Obama’s plan to expand government-owned broadband networks (GONs). These individuals see GONs for what they are: costly taxpayer-funded projects that drive out the private sector and leave consumers with fewer choices.

Here is a sampling of the responses:

  • Deseret News (Utah) Editorial Board: “President Obama believes that allowing publicly funded broadband infrastructures, which essentially treat Internet access as a public utility, would be good for business and help the nation compete globally. This would be news to the many Utahns currently struggling to dig out from millions of dollars of public debt caused by failed, or failing, public broadband ventures. The president also said this week he wants the FCC to override state laws that prohibit such ventures, which is a breath-taking usurpation of a state’s right to regulate commerce within its borders. … [W]hen the president chides the 19 states that have laws against publicly funded broadband networks, he fails to mention why those laws are in place. Not all such systems have failed, but many have, and the results have been disastrous for taxpayers …”
  • Amy Schatz, Re/Code: “Aside from concerns by competitors, there have been a few cases where locally owned systems have run into financial trouble, since it’s extremely expensive to build fiber networks and incumbent Internet providers in some cases have cut their prices to retain customers.”
  • Galesburg, Ill. Register Mail: “Local Internet providers said that while community broadband networks sound good in theory, they come with a price and inhibit competition from smaller Internet providers. Stratus Networks, which provides Internet for some businesses in Galesburg, said it would be hard for private companies to compete with community-based networks.’ I can’t compete with the government,’ Stratus CEO Kevin Morgan said. ‘We as a smaller company sort of get squeezed.’”
  • U.S. Chamber Of Commerce: “President Obama’s announcement supporting municipal broadband shows once again that the administration is ignoring the tremendous private-sector investment and innovation that is bringing increased broadband access and speeds to millions of Americans. Municipalities are creatures of state law, and in a system based on federalism, a federal agency should not negate centuries of cooperation. The Chamber encourages a focus on unserved areas, but if the administration is serious about expanding broadband and reducing regulatory barriers, it should not impose new levels of uncertainty and set up government-subsidized competitors, when all evidence indicates that hundreds of billions of dollars of private-sector investment have been driving economic growth.”
  • Mediacom Communications Founder and CEO Rocco B. Commisso: “T]here is no reason to invest even more government dollars in municipally-owned broadband ventures, many of which wind up in financial difficulty. That is especially true at a time when wages are stagnant even as taxes constantly rise, and when there are more pressing needs that are actually proper areas for government action, such as saving the social security system from insolvency, dealing with massive unfunded state and local pension obligations and investing in our schools, bridges and roads.”