Federal Lawmakers Unite on Community Broadband

A group of U.S. legislators have introduced a measure to help cities build their own high-speed networks.

by Brian Heaton / January 23, 2015
Sen. Cory Booker Emile Wamsteker
Sen. Cory BookerEmile Wamsteker

Advocates of cities’ rights to build their own broadband networks have a new champion at the federal level – Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.

The U.S. senator from New Jersey, along with co-sponsors Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass; and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; introduced the Community Broadband Act on Jan. 22 – a measure that amends federal law to make it illegal for states to ban municipal broadband networks through new legislation or regulations.

“As mayor of Newark, I saw firsthand the value of empowering local communities to invest and innovate,” Booker said in a statement. “The Community Broadband Act provides cities the flexibility they need to meet the needs of their residents. This legislation will enhance economic development, improve access to education and health-care services, and provide increased opportunity to individuals in underserved areas.”

Booker’s bill comes on the heels of President Barack Obama’s recent public support of expanded broadband connectivity in the U.S. Approximately 20 states have laws on the book that prevent or restrict municipalities from creating their own broadband networks.

Wilson, N.C., and the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, Tenn., filed petitions with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) earlier this year asking it to vacate state laws that are preventing cities from providing and expanding communications services.

“Barriers at the state level are preventing communities from developing local solutions when there is little or no choice in their Internet service provider,” Markey added in a statement.