"Cities are [taking advantage of broadband technology.] Spokane, Washington, yesterday established a wi-fi hot zone that allows users within a hundred block area of the city to obtain wireless broadband access. Imagine if you’re the head of a chamber of commerce of a city, and you say, ‘Gosh, our city is a great place to do business or to find work. We’re setting up a wi-fi hot zone, which means our citizens are more likely to be more productive than the citizens from a neighboring community.’ It’s a great opportunity . . . [T]his is a very exciting opportunity for the country. - The White House, President Bush: High Tech Improving Economy, Health Care, Education (June 24, 2004).
“I think we do a grave injustice in trying to hobble municipalities. Why don’t we encourage [municipal broadband] instead of having bills introduced [saying] – ‘Oh, you can’t do this because it’s interfering with somebody’s idea of the functioning marketplace’ – but the marketplace is not functioning in those places. - Michael Copps, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
To put this in context, imagine if Borders and Barnes & Noble, claiming it was killing their book sales, asked lawmakers to ban cities from building libraries. The legislators would laugh them out of the State House. Yet the same thing is happening right now with respect to Wi-Fi and other municipal broadband plans, and it is being taken all too seriously. - Municipal Broadband: Should Cities Have a Voice, Jon Leibowitz, FTC Commissioner Sept. 2005
History: Municipality involvement in communications has a long history.
The USG funded part construction of the early telegraph network, funded its coast to coast expansion, and gave 1500 miles of telegraph line to Western Union after the civil war.
Before the turn of the century, when Alexander Graham Bell's telephone patent expired, there was an onslaught of new independent telephone companies. Municipalities were involved in franchising the new local telephone services, finding them to be common carriers, granting them authority to operate, and setting fair rates.
During World War I, AT&T was nationalized, and competition was illegal.
STATEMENT FROM FCC CHAIRMAN JULIUS GENACHOWSKI ON PROPOSED MUNICIPAL BROADBAND LEGISLATION. STMT. TXT
Statement by FCC Commissioner Mignon L Clyburn on Proposed Anti-Municipal Broadband Legislation, April 4, 2011“I recently learned that several state legislatures are considering bills that are contrary to
the deployment objectives of the Broadband Plan.
For example, in North Carolina, the state
legislature is currently evaluating legislation
entitled ‘Level Playing
Competition.’ Last week the North Carolina Ho
use passed the bill, and it currently awaits
consideration in the Senate. This piece of legi
slation certainly sounds
goal-worthy, an innocuous
proposition, but do not let the tit
le fool you. This measure,
if enacted, will not only
the playing field; it will disc
ourage municipal governments fr
om addressing deployment in
communities where the private sector has failed
to meet broadband service needs. In other
words, it will be a
to broadband deployment and
may impede local efforts to
promote economic development.""
National Broadband Plan Rec. 8.19: Congress should make clear that state, regional and local governments can build broadband networks.
"Local entities typically decide to offer services when no providers exist that meet local needs. These local entities do so only after trying to work with established carriers to meet local needs.141 This experience is similar to how some municipalities responded in the early part of the 20th century when investor-owned electric utilities left rural America in the dark while they electrified more lucrative urban centers. Public and cooperatively owned power utilities were created to fill the void. More than 2,800 public and co-op operators still provide electricity to 27% of Americans today.142 Many of these same rural areas now face similar challenges attracting private investment to connect civic institutions, businesses and residences to high-speed data networks. In some areas, local officials have decided that publicly-owned communications services are the best way to meet their residents’ needs (see Box 8-5).
Municipal broadband has risks. Municipally financed service may discourage investment by private companies. Before embarking on any type of broadband buildout, whether wired or wireless, towns and cities should try to attract private sector broadband investment. But in the absence of that investment, they should have the right to move forward and build networks that serve their constituents as they deem appropriate.
Deployment of Advanced Telecommunications Capability: Second Report, ¶ 181 Best Practices (FCC August 2000) PDF (See Section 706)
171. In addition to the geographic area case studies, we have also conducted, in conjunction with the Federal-State Joint Conference on Advanced Services, a review of community-based deployment efforts to identify best practices which have led to increased access to advanced telecommunications capability. This information has been developed through the series of hearings and site visits sponsored by the Joint Conference, the development of the database on project characteristics and literature review. The field hearings, site visits, and the Joint Conference’s growing database of community deployment efforts,220 have provided important insights into the kinds of efforts that can successfully bring advanced services to a diverse range of communities. This section outlines some of these successful strategies.....
181. Direct public investment in desired infrastructure has also been used. There are many instances where a municipality, usually one that already provides another utility service like cable or electricity, builds its own high-speed telecommunications facilities and directly serves customers. In other instances, states have invested in substantial fiber networks to schools or other customers.
182. Hawarden, Iowa took this approach. The City of Hawarden operated a successful electric and cable utility. Unhappy with the telecommunications service options available to them, the City decided to build its own advanced telecommunications facilities. They have now built a hybrid fiber coaxial cable network throughout the town. Businesses in the community that previously feared being left behind in a digital age, no longer fear being forced to relocate to have access to the modern communications they need. 229 In Orange City, Iowa the town government formed a partnership with its local telephone companies and is building a wireless system that is bringing high-speed Internet to its citizens. The case studies of both Waltham, Massachusetts and the Muscatine, Iowa illustrate the strong role public investment has played in those communities
CONNECTED & ON THE GO, BROADBAND GOES WIRELESS, REPORT BY THE WIRELESS
BROADBAND ACCESS TASK FORCE p 32 (2005) (“FCC Report”) PDF
P. 32 “community networks can act
as a low-cost alternative where access to cable modem or DSL service is either unavailable or too
p 33 “Ensuring that all citizens have access to broadband services is of increasing importance to local governments.”
Debating Municipal Broadband with Christopher Mitchell June 19, 2008
Community Fiber Networks Are Faster, Cheaper Than Incumbents
Killer Applications: The use of VoIP has been described as a killer application for Muni Wifi. [Aaron Kaplan, Funkfeuer Network presented at NAF (Feb. 6 2008)] It could present a compelling alternative to over priced mobile telephone service with the use of such things as Skype Wifi phones.
States (this chart is out of date)
Municipalities are under the authority of state governments. Therefore, state governments can say whether or not it is permissible for a municipality to offer broadband services. This is true even though the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 USC 253(a), stated that no state could prohibit "any entity" from offering telecommunications service. The Supreme Court in Missouri Municipal League v. Nixon (SCt 2003) upheld that a municipality is not an "any entity" and that a state could limit the municipalities authority.
A plethora of states have passed laws restricting, conditioning, or prohibiting municipalies from offering broadband services. Some of these laws constitute nothing more than "don't stick your finger in your eye." These are requirements that states do due diligence, find out what the demand for broadband is and find out what service providers currently offer service in their market. Other states out right ban municipal action. And then there is the truly wierd Pennsylvania law which gives Verizon the right to veto any municipality, except Philadelphia, from offering broadband. Jim Baller points out that in the year 2005, there was a backlash against these laws; of the 14 legislative proposals introduced in 2005 to place barriers in the way of municipal broadband, 13 failed.
Hermosa Beach (w)
Loma Linda (f)
Long Beach (w)
Palo Alto (f)
San Francisco (w)
San Manteo (w)
Santa Clara (w)
Some Municipality RFPs have explicitly stated Network Neutrality as a condition. See SF RFP Sec. 2.1 PDF
The Network Operator shall promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet by operating the Network in a neutral manner that ensures consumers are entitled to:
• Run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law
• Access the lawful Internet content of their choice
• Connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network
• Competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.
Similar to municipal networks, these are local networks that are organized by the grassroots local communities instead of by the municipalities and local governments. Some of this movement emphasizes on ad hoc mesh networks.