Chattanooga, Tennessee’s municipal broadband network offers affordable broadband service that just happens to deliver the same 1Gbps peak speeds as Google Fiber. Given this apparent success story, you would think that state government officials would be happy to see other municipalities experiment with building their own fiber networks or to at least let Chattanooga expand its fiber service to more areas. But you’d be wrong.
After intense lobbying from incumbent ISPs, Tennessee’s state legislature slapped major restrictions on cities’ and towns’ ability to build out their own fiber networks, which means that Chattanooga will not be allowed to expand its network out to more areas as the city had previously planned. This pandemic of anti-municipal fiber legislation has gotten so bad that Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler recently said that he wanted to take action that would prevent states from interfering with individual municipalities’ choices to build their own networks.
However Ars Technica points us to a new quote from Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), whom we last saw slamming Google and Netflix for supposedly mooching off of Comcast, and who is now defending incumbent ISPs’ rights to offer her constituents inferior broadband service without having to face any competition from anyone.
“We don’t need unelected federal agency bureaucrats in Washington telling our states what they can and can’t do with respect to protecting their limited taxpayer dollars and private enterprises,” Blackburn explained. “States have spoken and said we should be careful and deliberate in how we allow public entry into our vibrant communications marketplace, a sector of our economy that invests tens of billions of dollars each year, accounts for tens off thousands of jobs, and serves millions of consumers.”
The “states’ rights” charge might carry some weight if the states weren’t interfering with local governments’ own rights to build their own networks if they want to. Instead, it’s pretty clear that the key passage here is “protecting private enterprises” that both don’t want to have to compete with local governments and that don’t want to invest the kind of capital that it would take to build their own fiber networks.
Either way, we’re still glad to see that some patriots in this day and age are still standing up to protect our freedoms from the municipal broadband menace. As certain historical figure might have said were she alive today, “Let them eat dial-up!”