You know what incumbent Internet service providers don’t like? That’s right: Competition. They especially don’t like it when that competition comes in the form of government-funded municipal broadband projects like the one that’s been a big success in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The good news for incumbent ISPs about such municipal broadband projects, however, is they can be constrained or shut down with the help of effective lobbying operations.
In case you don’t know, Comcast and AT&T have very effective lobbying operations.
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The Times Free Press reports that Comcast and AT&T lobbyists have successfully killed off a bill that would have allowed for the expansion of Chattanooga’s municipal broadband services “to offer broadband to a rural electric cooperative located in the same county as well as an adjoining county.” The man behind the proposed expansion, state representative Kevin Brooks, was outraged that his proposal got shot down after lobbying from the incumbent companies, especially since he scaled it back in the hopes that it would have a better chance of succeeding.
“It’s a testament to the power of lobbying against this bill and not listening to our electorate,” Brooks said after the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee defeated his new proposal by a 5-3 vote.
The FCC last year voted 3-2 in favor of a measure that would prohibit state legislatures from barring municipalities from building out their own broadband networks. Tennessee’s state government has appealed this ruling and has argued that it violates its state rights.
Several state legislatures in recent years have worked to kill off municipal broadband projects at the behest of incumbent telecom companies that don’t want to deal with added competition from cities who want to build out their own networks.