Monday, March 28, 2016

Local government Internet infrastructure efforts spurred by FCC's non-enforcement of Title II, encourgement of "competition"

EPB Lays Out Plans To Provide All Of Bradley County With High-Speed Internet, TV Service; Cost Is Up To $60 Million - Chattanoogan.com: State Rep. Dan Howell, the former executive assistant to the county mayor of Bradley County, was in attendance and called broadband a “necessity” as he offered his full support to helping EPB, as did Tennessee State Senator Todd Gardenhire. “We can finally get something done,” Senator Gardenhire said. “The major carriers, Charter, Comcast and AT&T, have an exclusive right to the area and they haven’t done anything about it.”

The "exclusive right" mentioned here isn't generally a government-granted or regulated license or franchise to offer Internet service. It's actually a de facto duopoly market of legacy telephone and cable companies. Title II of the federal Communications Act recognizes that telecommunications infrastructure due to its high cost of construction and operation tends to function as a natural monopoly. In accordance with this, the Federal Communications Commission classified Internet as a telecommunications utility under Title II by adopting its Open Internet rules in 2015. But the FCC is currently not enforcing the universal service and anti-redlining provisions of Title II.

It's therefore unsurprising that barring such enforcement, local governments will attempt to fill in the gaps in unserved or poorly served areas in response to their citizens' complaints. When those living and operating businesses in landline unserved areas attempt to order Internet service, without FCC enforcement of Title II the incumbent telephone and cable companies can summarily turn them down without consequence. That leaves them little recourse other than to demand their local elected officials do something to help. The FCC's non-enforcement of these Title II provisions correlates with its current policy position advocating local government "competition" with incumbent telcos and cablecos -- in conflict with its Open Internet rules predicated on a monopolistic and non-competitive market.

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