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February 28, 2005

FCC’s Copps on Broadband Policy [9:20 am]

Why our broadband policy’s still a mess

At the same time, the state legislature in Indiana recently shot down a bill that would impose significant restrictions on municipalities for launching their own broadband infrastructure services.

It’s not an easy thing if you’re the leader of a hard-pressed, cash-strapped municipality–as all of them are in this day and age–to take on additional burden of providing broadband to your people.

I think we do a grave injustice in trying to hobble municipalities. That’s an entrepreneurial approach, that’s an innovative approach. Why don’t we encourage that instead of having bills introduced–”Oh, you can’t do this because it’s interfering with somebody’s idea of the functioning of the marketplace.” And then the marketplace is not functioning in those places.

The Bells say that government should not be competing with the private sector.
They are not out there trying to put broadband in the municipality. Where is the competition?

The Bells also say they’re trying to protect residents from being unfairly taxed if such an infrastructure were to go belly-up.

Well, a municipality is a democratically run institution. They can make their own decisions. They don’t need the Bells. They don’t need the Administration, and they don’t need me telling them what kind of decision they should be making.

[...] You’ve been very outspoken about network neutrality. You had some comments about that today, during your speech.

I’ve been outspoken about the principle of nondiscrimination. I think that’s the first step we have to take and for everybody to agree on that. I spoke about this a year or two ago. I was happy to see (FCC Chairman Michael) Powell give similar remarks and commitment to that principle of nondiscrimination–open access or network neutrality. I think Chairman Powell talks a lot about best practices and voluntary guidelines and things like that, and you’d like to hope that that would be sufficient.

But then you read something in the paper, like the complaint that Vonage may file with the commission, and you realize that maybe there is a problem out there and maybe we ought to ask ourselves a question: Is all this really going to take care of itself without some sort of more imaginative or innovative approach from the commission?

Related: Michal Geist’s article: Let towns, cities provide cheap, everywhere broadband [pdf]

Commissioner Copps’ speech - Remarks of Commissioner Copps; “9-1-1 Goes To Washington Critical Issues Forum”

Later: Slashdot discussion - FCC Member Copps In Favor of Municipal WiFi

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