Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes… towards municipal broadband, that is. As officials in the Roanoke Valley move forward with plans for a municipal fiber network the state of North Carolina is busy suing the FCC to prevent its local governments from doing the same.
To be fair, municipal broadband is no cakewalk in Virginia. Commonwealth regulators at the SCC require localities to essentially tax their own operations in an amount they would charge an incumbent Internet Service Provider (ISP) for such things as licenses, pole attachments, and street opening permits. They also prohibit cross-subsidizing telecommunications from other government operations, except when no other competitors are vying to offer similar services. Municipal networks must provide open access to other providers. And they can forget about cable TV.
Rules like these typically raise hackles from those on the left who see no problems with municipal broadband, since they relish the expansion of government control. In their view such telecom legislation is nothing more the genesis of greedy cable companies, and while there’s no denying the influence of the cable lobby in state legislatures — apparently cable companies run the show in N.C. — there are, in fact, dangers in stripping all restraints from municipal network providers.
As long as government entities have a monopoly power on taxes and absolute control over land use, there is a need to hold them in check. Just ask the incumbent providers. Too many communities have abused their authority by exacting unreasonable fees for right-of-way permitting, and have bogged down network deployments through bureaucratic inertia. Much like developers seeking zoning approvals, the ISP network is viewed as another revenue stream.
Virginia regulators will need to find a middle road so municipal networks can fill voids where private sector ISPs are not competing, while also ensuring that municipalities and their network partners aren’t conferred unfair advantages.There are currently no comments highlighted.