A group of six Republican senators have appealed to the FCC asking the agency to stop promoting government-owned broadband networks at the expense of private providers and to allow states to regulate these networks. Specifically, the letter says that the FCC and agency officials have been "engaged in outreach" to persuade communities to deploy municipal broadband networks.
The group of senators, which includes Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who is currently campaigning to be the Republican presidential candidate in the 2016 election, said in the letter that municipal broadband networks not only run the risk of overbuilding existing private networks, but also could result in the loss of limited Universal Service Funds for operators that are delivering broadband to rural America. "The FCC should not be in the business of choosing winners and losers in the competitive broadband marketplace," the letter said.
The letter from the Republican senators is the latest in a growing concern among telecom providers over the competitive threat from municipal broadband networks. AT&T (NYSE: T), Cox Communications, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and other broadband providers have felt the increasing threat from municipal networks, which often offer higher speeds for a lower price. In Chattanooga, Tenn., for example, city officials have launched a municipal broadband network that provides 1-Gig data speeds for less than $70 per month.
Interestingly, voters are fighting back. In November a group of 26 Colorado communities, including 17 counties, voted to overturn a 10-year old law that restricts local municipalities from building their own broadband networks.
There are more than two dozen states that have laws on the books limiting local government from offering broadband services -- a number of which have been driven by the local cable operators and telcos like Comcast and AT&T.
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