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Government Network The Internet

The FCC Can't Help Cities Trapped By Predatory Internet Deals With Big Telecom 93

Jason Koebler writes: At least 20 states have laws that make it illegal for communities to offer local government-owned high speed internet access. Wednesday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler threw consumers a bone by suggesting that the agency could make it easier for cities to skirt those laws. That's a great first step — but many cities have locked themselves into telecom company-caused messes the FCC probably can't fix. The FCC's power becomes much less certain once you drill into the other major reason—besides state laws—why cities can't offer broadband to their constituents: local, long-term agreements with internet service providers.
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The FCC Can't Help Cities Trapped By Predatory Internet Deals With Big Telecom

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    And you're bound to get burned.

  • by newcastlejon ( 1483695 ) on Friday June 13, 2014 @06:44PM (#47233539)
    If the FCC is seemingly so impotent to regulate the industry, just what the hell are you guys paying it to do?
    • by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Friday June 13, 2014 @06:45PM (#47233547)

      If the FCC is seemingly so impotent to regulate the industry, just what the hell are you guys paying it to do?

      Prevent breasts from being shown on TV.

      • And avoidence of 8 words to not be heard.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          And avoidence of 8 words to not be heard.

          The Federal Communications Commission is big business's whore.

          Are those the 8 words?

      • Prevent breasts from being shown on TV.

        Stop people from saying "shit" on the radio

      • Uhm.

        Prevent womens breasts from being exposed on TV after men rip their tops off.


      • Prevent breasts from being shown on TV.

        Not quite. An completely isolated breast or two is just fine as long as long as the slasher with the bloody knife soon loses interest and finds a better target.

      • by Rrraou ( 3655889 )
        That's a bug, not a feature.
    • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Friday June 13, 2014 @06:49PM (#47233569)

      As with many things in the U.S., it boils down to the complex relationship between different levels of government. Telecom is regulated largely at the national level, but in part at the local level. The right to sign monopoly deals with local providers is one right that is delegated to local government, under current law anyway. So if a given local government actually signs such a deal, they're stuck with it.

      • Anyone ever think about the tragedy of the commons (see wikipedia)? Free internet only last so long before it's overgrazed?
    • by alen ( 225700 ) on Friday June 13, 2014 @06:53PM (#47233601)

      a town or city signs a deal with a company to provide services to citizens with all kinds of conditions to protect both sides
      what is the FCC supposed to do about it? any town or city can pull out of the contract, they just have to pay up, lose revenue or whatever the contract says the terms are

      now this comcast/verizon vs netflix issue, that's a different story

    • FCC - what it does (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Friday June 13, 2014 @07:02PM (#47233643)

      Title 47 []

      I don't particularly want to understand the FCC's area of authority, so here is Title 47.

    • by Livius ( 318358 )

      The FCC is there to regulate *consumer*, not industry.

    • by sudon't ( 580652 )

      A lot of the "teeth" have been removed from many regulators over the years, in order to prevent their "interfering" with Big Business. That also helps explain part of the recent financial crisis, as banking regulators were carefully de-fanged over the last thirty years. Also, what Trepidity said.

  • When you get to this level, it's not really the FCC's mandate anymore. It's the FTC's mandate, as it has become a federal trade/transport issue. When a municipality can't transport data to another municipality because of a contract with an infrastructure provider who is interstate, that's FTC territory.

    Plus, I think you'll find there's only one state where this is illegal; in all the other states, it's just legislatively prohibitive (following the laws, it would cost too much to provide to the community).

  • Your local governments made sweetheart monopoly deals to get cable money. Now you think the solution is for your local government to make a different kind of sweetheart monopoly deal for municipal internet access?

    Open up local wired infrastructure to competitive use instead. The wire is in the ground. End monopoly access to it. Let companies compete for subscribers.

    • Nah, I think the local government should review the contract to confirm that the provider is meeting their obligations. If they are not, then a simple contract cancellation due to non-performance of the provider should be all it takes to clean up the mess.

    • by DaAdder ( 124139 )

      How about doing what has been done in the US, and is being done successfully all over the world:

      Let the local government own the network.

      Either the local government makes their own infrastructure company for maintenance and development of the network itself, or let an established company do it.
      The point being of course, that everyone can buy access and then sell services in the network. Whoever runs the network publicly document costs, and charges everyone the same, cost based, non-profit fee.

      Meaning you ha

    • If the wire was used entirely for broadband, instead of 300 channels of crap nobody watches and 10 million phone lines that nobody wanted, it would be enough bandwidth to make the entire fiber-optic debate moot (for another 30 years anyway)

  • I wouldn't have expected the FCC to be able to do anything about this. They are mostly toothless when it comes to many of the problems with the Internet, which isn't necessarily a bad thing considering they have abused their power in favor of incumbents in the past. This is a problem that really needs to be attacked at it's source: telecom's ludicrous lobbying power. I hate to sound like a shill for Lawrence Lessig, but I really hope the May One super PAC is a success. American "democracy" really is pay
  • These deals that provide a kickback to the municipality are effectively a tax. California restricts what taxes can be imposed without the approval of the electorate. Perhaps the deals could be challenged on the basis that they are illegal taxes?
  • Since the cable scum have monopolies in their service areas, and they are clearly interstate businesses, there should be some other entity at the Federal level that can address this issue. I'm guess the FTC, but it not them, there should be someone else.

    Oops, I forgot that we don't have any actual capitalism in the USA any more, because the regulators are all controlled by industry groups. Forget it. Your cable/phone/ISP bill is going to continue to go up far faster then inflation, and your service will su

  • Like say a Credit Union. Everyone signs up, pays a small amount for the share which is then used to start the company then once its rolled out each person in the city that signed up pays a certain monthly amount and has shares in the company.

    • We'd be up for it. Strictly speaking we're for profit but as a non-American I may also have some socialistic or altruistic tendencies which might be advantageous for such a project.

      The question is finding *enough* people & money to make it work. Geek-heavy sites like ./ and the like make it seem easy because for the most part we do care about our technology and our Internets, but talk to your neighbours 10-houses on either side and find out how many of them care as much about their Internet services as

  • Washington state used to have a law that made it illegal to sell distilled liquor in grocery stores. People voted on a ballot initiative and the law changed. Even if bought politicians stay bought, people can change the politicians. A city might find that a contract is void because the former politicians who made it were not acting in good faith with regard to the public's interest.
  • Weren't those contracts made with the promise that $telcom would provide decent internet access? Even if it was just a verbal contract. I think the cities should sue them for breach of contract, to recover those excessive costs and lost revenue due to having crappy internet connections.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.