19 February 2021

Today in Evil

After discovering that municipal broadband is better and cheaper than what you can get from the incumbent carriers, House Republicans introduce legislation banning the practice, because there is not enough opportunity for graft campaign donations the private sector when the government does the job better and cheaper.

Everyone hates their private ISP, the Dems should run on this, but the moderates want to continue to extract protection money campaign donations from the Baby Bells as well:

House Republicans this week proposed legislation that would ban the creation of municipal broadband networks at a federal level, and shutter networks in areas where some private competition exists – purportedly to improve internet access across the US.

Dubbed the CONNECT Act (Communities Overregulating Networks Need Economic Competition Today), the bill [PDF] says: "A State or political subdivision thereof may not provide or offer for sale to the public, a telecommunications provider, or to a commercial provider of broadband internet access service, retail or wholesale broadband internet access service."

The CONNECT Act would also ban states from operating municipal broadband networks in areas where two or more private operators exist. The language here is fairly vague, and it doesn't state how affected operators should dispose of their existing infrastructure. It's also fairly limited about what constitutes a "private operator", deferring only to the barebones definition in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).


Twenty-two states have passed laws that either prohibit municipal broadband entirely, or impose restrictions that make municipal broadband projects significantly harder to launch and operate. Minnesota, for example, requires municipalities to obtain a supermajority (65 per cent) of voters in a referendum before providing telecommunications services. Montana and Pennsylvania only permit projects if there is no private competition. Texas and Missouri have outright bans on municipal broadband.

The Democratic response should be to pass legislation preempting the state bans and offering subsidies (which would be smaller than those given to the likes of AT&T and Verizon) for the establishment of municipal broadband.

They should, but they won't.


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