On the day the FCC made its landmark ruling on net neutrality, it issued another order. This one preempted state laws restricting community broadband service in North Carolina and Tennessee and allowed expanded municipal broadband in two towns in these states.
The FCC's order was in response to petitions from Chattanooga, TN, and Wilson, NC. State laws prevented both communities from extending their municipal broadband service to neighboring towns. The FCC found that provisions in the laws were "barriers to broadband deployment, investment and competition" and conflicted with the FCC's "mandate to promote these goals."
Wider Implications for Municipal Broadband
While the order's scope was limited to Chattanooga and Wilson, we expect it will have implications in other states that have similar laws against city-owned broadband. As we noted in an earlier post, several populous states like California, Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania have such laws on the books. It may not be long before cities in these and other states move forward with their own broadband networks.
Before they do that, however, the FCC's order must survive legislative and legal challenges from lawmakers and cable and telecom companies.
We believe the demand for broadband from small and large communities will become too great to be ignored. After all, the journey to the petition by Chattanooga and Wilson began when they simply tried to fulfill the demand from adjacent towns.
Looking at the issue from the telecom companies' point of view, we understand in some areas the cost to provision bandwidth and services for high-speed Internet is too high and the expected return too low. In such cases, we expect municipalities will take a holistic look at their infrastructure and explore ways to develop alternative approaches leveraging private and public resources.
Stretching Dollars with Wireless Networks
When they do, one of the things they will find is that including wireless networks in their broadband deployment stretches their dollars farther. Wireless networks cost far less to install and maintain than fiber-based networks, provide similar throughput speeds and allow quick expansion of the service area.
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