Obama's Muni Broadband Power Grab Is Illegal and Unwise
The federal government wishes for more people in rural communities to have access to high speed internet. Wonderful. But the President’s plan is to expand municipal broadband Internet rather than private investment and competition. And he wants to do it by striking down duly-enacted state laws. This is blatantly wrong.
Faster internet carries many economic benefits as well as improved quality of life. But to attempt to achieve this through more regulatory measures under the aegis of an independent agency, the FCC, that is not supposed to be under his control, President Obama’s administration is once refusing to honor duly-enacted state laws and, thus, the voices of the American people.
According to the White House, the proposed action would use the votes of the three Democratic members of the FCC -- unelected bureaucrats -- to invalidate state laws governing municipal broadband networks in 19 states! Some of these laws are as eminently reasonable as the Colorado law that simply requires that municipal broadband systems are approved by voters and that that private companies are free to fairly compete with them.
This is a serious matter, indeed. A federal regulatory agency will supplant state authority 19 times. Laws enacted by legislatures and signed by governors.
If Washington’s outright lawless behavior is not enough to raise concerns for the American people, government provided municipal broadband internet is often twice as expensive as the same service offered by private broadband internet providers. The "success story" the president touted today in Cedar Falls, Iowa doesn't look so great in context:
Google's 1 gig service in KC - $70 a month; AT&T's 1 gig in Austin - $70 a month; 1 gig muni broadband in Cedar Falls, IA - $147 a month.
— Matthew Berry (@matthewberryfcc) January 13, 2015
On top of costing consumers twice as much, municipal broadband has a long history of catastrophic failure. And once it fails, taxpayers accrue the enormous expense for the “clean up.” For example, the debt of a municipal broadband program in Michigan is $89.9 million!
To prevent such a catastrophe, safeguard its taxpayers, and promote market competition, the North Carolina General Assembly adopted a taxpayer’s protection law. But now, President Obama’s municipal broadband push would overrule such sensible pieces of legislation and threaten the sound principles of our market economy.
Access to faster internet service does carry real economic advantages. But such development should be handled by the private sector, which is able to provide service at a lower cost to consumers – and taxpayers. Paying twice as much for the same service and giving in to Washington’s incessant desire for greater regulation is certainly not the path to take for increased economic prosperity and individual liberty.
As we have seen time and time again, this administration is supplanting states’ rights and pushing its agenda forward through regulatory bodies, which, in this case, it has no legal authority to do.
American Commitment filed comments to the FCC on this matter last year. According to Nixon vs. Missouri Municipal League, the FCC needs statutory authority from Congress to alter municipal broadband. And Congress has not granted the FCC such authority.
President Obama's attempt to use what is supposed to an independent agency to illegally preempt state laws is wrong and needs to be stopped.