House Passes Bill Letting Local Broadband Compete With Big ISPs

LOS ANGELES—Local governments who want to lower internet service costs for their communities by competing with the big telecommunications companies would be able to do so in all 50 states, if a major internet reform and funding bill that passed the U.S. House last week is able to become law. Chances that the $100 billion Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, sponsored in the House by South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, will make it through the Republican-controlled Senate remain slim, however. In the House, the bill passed on a mostly party-line vote, 233-188, while the same dynamic applied to the bill’s amendments, which included the provisions allowing for broadband competition. Those amendments passed 234-178. The bulk of the bill is devoted to allocating $80 billion for development of broadband networks in remote, rural, and other areas of the country that currently have limited or no internet access.  But the bill also overrides laws in 21 states that prevent local cities and towns from building municipally owned broadband networks that could compete with big ISPs such as Verizon and AT&T.  The laws vary widely among states. In Pennsylvania, local governments must take any plan to build a broadband network to whichever telecom company holds the monopoly over service in that area. The company may then choose to build — and own — the network itself. Only if it declines, may the local community build its own network. In California, communities are ostensibly free to build their own networks — but they must hand the network over to any big telecom that expresses willingness to maintain or improve it. The House bill also includes a “Dig Once” provision, meaning that any new highway construction must also include the installation of fiber cables for internet networks, eliminating the need for a whole new project to expand broadband locally. The bill also allocates $9 billion to a “lifeline” fund that would give a monthly $50 discount on broadband to low-income users. The monthly credit rises to $75 on Native American tribal lands. The current monthly low-income credit is less that $10. “This legislation takes a comprehensive approach towards closing the digital divide by focusing on deployment and affordability,” Jenna Leventoff, senior Policy Counsel for the advocacy group Public Knowledge, said in a statement. “Ensuring that consumers not only have the ability to purchase broadband, but also the ability to afford it is key for narrowing our nation’s staggering digital divide.”  Photo By Daniel Dino-Slofer / Pixabay 

written by: Lawrence Avery

source: House Passes Bill Letting Local Broadband Compete With Big ISPs | AVN