Coalition Urges Feds To Allow Municipal Broadband Networks - InformationWeek

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Coalition Urges Feds To Allow Municipal Broadband Networks

High technology companies, local governments, and consumer organizations urge Congress to pass legislation that will ensure that local governments are allowed to provide broadband network access to their residents and businesses.

A coalition of high technology companies, local governments and consumer organizations have urged Congress to pass legislation that will ensure that local governments be allowed to provide broadband network access to their residents and businesses.

The coalition is responding to recent efforts by some state governments to prevent municipal governments from offering community broadband services. Thirteen states have already adopted legislation that restricts the creation or expansion of such services by local governments.

The coalition's efforts dovetail with expected moves by influential members of Congress, according to published reports. According to the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., plan to introduce legislation that will not allow states to prohibit cities from offering high-speed Internet access to their residents.

Both actions are in response to legislative moves designed to keep municipalities out of the Internet-services arena. Last month, a Republican congressman from Texas, Pete Sessions, introduced legislation seeking to prohibit local governments from providing telecommunications service where private companies already offered competing services. Sessions, a former employee of Southwestern Bell, has received more than $75,000 in political contributions from telecom giant SBC, according to several published reports. Sessions' wife also still works for SBC.

The high-tech and local-government coalition, representing some 40 local governments and dozens of other organizations, cites the Bush administration's public commitment to ensure universal broadband access in the United States by 2007. In its letter to Congress, it argues that "community broadband networks provide an essential catalyst for market competition, economic development, and universal, affordable Internet access for all Americans."

Responding to concerns that community networks are incompatible with private sector competition, the coalition has compared the effort to provide public universal broadband access to 19th century efforts to bring electricity to rural areas. The letter continues, "the choice should continue to be made by local leaders who are directly accountable to their communities, using open and competitively neutral processes, and should not be foreclosed by state or federal law."

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