“Anti-municipal” broadband measures under consideration in at least three states are counterproductive and harmful to communities, said FCC Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn in a statement issued Monday, April 4.
Clyburn called the “Level Playing Field/Local Government Competition Act” proposed in North Carolina a “significant barrier to broadband deployment.” The commissioner expressed concern that if the bill is signed into law, it would impede local economic development efforts. Critics of the legislation claim that the bill would ultimately kill off broadband networks in the state that are owned and/or operated by municipal governments.
“This measure, if enacted, will not only fail to level the playing field; it will discourage municipal governments from addressing deployment in communities where the private sector has failed to meet broadband service needs,” Clyburn said in a press release.
The commissioner also said the broadband industry is ignoring the National Broadband Plan, which recommended that Congress clarify that state, regional and local governments should not be restricted from building their own broadband networks. If providers can’t meet the needs of a community, the plan stipulates that state, regional and local governments should have the freedom to respond as needed.
“I remain concerned that when cities and local governments are prohibited from investing directly in their own broadband networks, citizens may be denied the opportunity to connect with their nation and improve their lives,” added Clyburn, who was nominated to the FCC in 2009 by President Obama.
The press release from Clyburn also revealed that South Carolina has similar legislation pending, and Arkansas is looking into a ban on publicly owned broadband network. North Carolina’s act quickly passed through its House of Representatives and is currently proceeding to the Senate.
Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.