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Municipal Broadband Takes Presidential Stage

January 8, 2016

iStock_000003994351MediumPresidential candidates have started to take notice of the government-owned broadband issue. According to FierceTelecom, Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), who is running for the Republican nomination for president, and seven of his Senate colleagues sent a letter to members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December to express “serious concerns” about the FCC’s efforts to expand government-owned broadband networks (GONs).

Joining Sen. Rubio on the letter were Sen. John Barrasso (WY), Sen. John Cornyn (TX), Sen. Mike Enzi (WY), Sen. Deb Fischer (NE), Sen. Ron Johnson (WI), Sen. Pat Roberts (KS) and Sen. Tim Scott (SC).

The senators made clear that the FCC’s advocacy in support of government internet has gone far beyond the commission’s order in February to overturn state municipal broadband laws in North Carolina and Tennessee. According to the senators, “[I]n the months following the FCC’s decision, agency have begun engaging in outreach to persuade communities to deploy municipal broadband networks” and also has “committed funding to deploy government-owned networks through the Universal Service Fund’s Rural Broadband Experiments program.”

The senators note that government networks compete with private sector Internet Service Providers and suggest that, in promoting the government-owned options, the FCC is “picking winners and losers” – a function no government agency should assume.

The senators also question whether the FCC had the authority to overturn North Carolina and Tennessee states laws in the first place. The senators argue, “States are far better positioned than the federal government to understand the needs of their citizens and protect taxpayers from unnecessary and wasteful spending.”

Finally, the senators ask the FCC to respond to several requests, including letting taxpayers know how much the commission has committed to government-owned broadband networks.

The senators asked the FCC to respond by Jan. 4. No word on whether FCC commissioners have responded to the eight senators, but Coalition for the New Economy will let you know if they do.