Connections Blog

WHEELER ON LOCAL BROADBAND CHOICE & AMERICAN OPPORTUNITY

Chairman Wheeler

Amidst enormous applause and a final standing ovation, FCC Chairman Wheeler spoke to NATOA two weeks ago about the critical federal-local partnership that is essential for “all citizens” “to have access to robust broadband networks.” CLIC revisits this important speech and Chairman Wheeler’s focus on Lafayette’s local broadband victory to demonstrate the inherent value in local communities being able to determine their own broadband futures. Wheeler stated:

“The advantages of competition are so obvious and ingrained in the American psyche that many local communities have stepped up to facilitate it where the private sector has not. Communities are listening to the needs of their citizens and enterprises, engaging community stakeholders, and focusing on delivering competitive broadband services to respond to those needs.  As you know, two communities – Wilson, NC and Chattanooga, TN – have petitioned the FCC to preempt the laws enacted by state legislatures that prohibit them from expanding their community-owned broadband networks…. We will make our decision on those petitions on the record and on the merits. I am not going to comment on them any further.

However, I do encourage you to consider how local choice and competition can increase the broadband opportunities for your citizens. I love the story of Lafayette, Louisiana where the local incumbent fought the city’s fiber network tooth and nail, bringing multiple court challenges and triggering a local referendum on the project.  Thankfully, none of the challenges managed to prevent deployment – sixty-two percent of voters approved of the network in the referendum, and the Louisiana Supreme Court unanimously sided with the city – but they did delay deployment almost three years.  When the network was finally built, the community experienced the benefits of competition, as the local cable operator decided to upgrade its network..

…. Local choice and competition are about as American as you can get.”

CLIC encourages you to get involved and let the Commission know why communities should have the right to decide their own economic and broadband futures. Take five minutes and file ex-parte comments, as we mention here.

 

GOOGLE TO LAUNCH ITS AUSTIN GIGABITS IN DECEMBER

It’s happening! Google will launch its much anticipated, ultra-fast Google Fiber Internet service this December, according to Google officials yesterday. Austin was named Google’s second U.S. city after Kansas City to get its Google Fiber 1-gigabit service. Signups will begin in December for new users in the southern areas of Austin, according to Mark Strama, head of Google Fiber’s Austin operations.

Last year, in response to Google’s Austin announcement, Grande Communications began rolling out 1 gigabit service to its customers in February, and Time Warner Cable and AT&T announced they were going to upgrade their networks. AT&T rolled out a 300 Mbps service this summer and this week announced it had upgraded those speeds to 1 gigabit.

Public -Private partnerships like these are what local net choice is all about, where local communities can use all the resources at their fingertips to encourage the deployment of modern broadband infrastructure and choice. As FCC Chairman Wheeler stated on September 4:

“We must build on and expand the creative thinking that has gone into facilitating advanced broadband builds around the country. For example, Google Fiber’s “City Checklist” highlights the importance of timely and accurate information about and access to infrastructure, such as poles and conduit. Working together, we can implement policies at the federal, state, and local level that serve consumers by facilitating construction and encouraging competition in the broadband marketplace.”

KEEP FILING COMMENTS FOR THE WILSON/CHATTANOOGA FCC PETITIONS — JUST MARK THEM “EX-PARTE”

Pencil photoYou can continue filing comments in the FCC Wilson (14-115) and Chattanooga  (14-116) proceedings! Until the Commission closes its “Sunshine Period,” the public can continue to file comments as long as they are marked “Ex-Parte” on the document. See our instructions on how to do this for quick “Express” comments or for longer “Expert” comments here. You can write about your personal broadband need story, a statement of support for the Wilson and Chattanooga Petitions, or respond to some of the Comments or Reply Comments posted here (by typing next to the prompt for “Proceeding” the number 14-115 for Wilson or 14-116 for Chattanooga.) All the submissions pop up for your reading pleasure. A sample format, if you are using the format of a letter for your Ex-Parte comments, can be found here.

FILE YOUR REPLY COMMENTS BY MONDAY FOR THE WILSON/CHATTANOOGA PETITIONS

We encourage CLIC members to get involved. Take five minutes and file an “Express” comment at the FCC website here for proceedings 14-115 (Wilson) and 14-116 (Chattanooga EPB), with your personal broadband need story or just a statement of support for the Wilson and Chattanooga Petitions, found here. You also can file longer support documents through “Expert” reply comments. Click here for How To File Reply Comments.

Pencil photo

If you miss Monday’s midnight deadline, you can file “ex-parte” comments until the Commission closes the sunshine period. More on this next week.

 

CLIC Welcomes Netflix’s Chris Libertelli to Our Board of Advisors

Chris Libertelli photo

On September 18, 2014, Chris Libertelli officially joined CLIC’s Board of Advisors.  Mr. Libertelli has been Vice President of Global Public Policy at Netflix since December 2011.  During his time at Netflix, he has been a champion for a variety of internet policy issues including efforts to increase competition among internet providers.  Prior to joining Netflix, Mr. Libertelli managed Skype’s government relations programs in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America.

Netflix has been a strong and consistent supporter of local internet choice.  Click here to read the comments Netflix submitted to the FCC in support of Wilson, NC and Chattanooga EPB’s petitions.

CLIC extends a warm welcome to Mr. Libertelli.  We look forward to the outstanding contributions he will bring to our Board.

THE INTERNET ASSOCIATION FILES AT FCC IN SUPPORT OF LOCAL NET CHOICE

The Internet Association  represents the interests of America’s leading Internet companies and their global community of users, including: Airbnb, Amazon, AOL, eBay, Expedia, Facebook, Gilt, Google, IAC, LinkedIn, Lyft, Monster Worldwide, Netflix, Practice Fusion, Rackspace, reddit, Salesforce.com, SurveyMonkey, TripAdvisor, Twitter, Uber Technologies, Inc., Yelp, Yahoo!, and Zynga.  On Friday, this noteworthy association filed comments in support of the Wilson, NC and Chattanooga petitions requesting the FCC to preempt their state laws which inhibit the deployment of broadband networks.

The Internet Association called on the agency to implement pro-consumer policies to bring faster and better broadband service to all Americans, promote competition and choice in the broadband market, and protect an open Internet:

“The Internet is an indispensable tool that is necessary to stay competitive globally, and the Commission has a mandate to ensure the deployment of advanced broadband services nationwide,” said Michael Beckerman, President and CEO of The Internet Association. “Access to high speed Internet service is not a luxury in today’s economy. It is a necessity. Policymakers must encourage broadband abundance and ensure high speed Internet service is deployed everywhere.”

“The Commission is right to carefully examine state laws adopted to prevent a local government from creating a high speed broadband service, especially in municipalities that are underserved. As stated above, in conducting its assessment, the Commission should carefully examine not only whether these state laws are standing in the way of deployment of broadband into new areas, but whether they are impeding the deployment of truly advanced services.”

Get involved. File your Reply comments by September 29, 2014, under “Submit a Filing” or “Submit a Filing (Express)” found here. The dockets are 14-115 (Wilson) and 14-116 (Chattanooga).

 

CLIC Commends Chairman Wheeler for Recognizing the Importance of Local Net Choice

Once again, CLIC thanks FCC Chairman Wheeler for his recognition of the importance of local Internet choice embedded in two separate letters responding to Congressmen who wrote him on the issue of FCC preemption of state anti-competitive broadband laws.

On July 22, 2014, Chairman Wheeler responded to various questions posed in a letter dated June 12, 2014, from Rep. Blackburn (R-TN) and other House Republicans asking why he would preempt anticompetitive state broadband laws. He began by recognizing the critical importance of local Internet choice and FCC’s obligations under the Communications Act:

“…Around the country, communities have focused on the importance of ensuring that their citizens receive the benefits of broadband, and some have concluded that investing in their own broadband efforts — or authorizing others to invest in their behalf — will provide more competition and the economic and social benefits that accompany competition for their residents and businesses. Section 706 of the Communications Act charges the Federal Communications Commission with ensuring that broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion. I believe that competition is a strong means to that critical goal.”

Again on August 11, the Chairman responded to a bi-cameral letter of June 27, 2014, from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce committee, and other House and Senate Democrats. Chairman Wheeler emphasized that he was “heartened” by their “support for community broadband” and their “recognition of the vital importance of robust broadband to our country as a whole, and to smaller communities in particular.” He noted how “some [communities] have concluded that investing in their own broadband effort will provide more competition,” “economic” and “social benefits,” and yet “many states have enacted laws that place a range of restrictions on communities’ ability to invest in their own future.” While recognizing “the important role of state governments in our federal system,” he noted that “state laws that directly conflict with critical federal laws and policy may be subject to preemption in appropriate circumstances.”

Throughout both letters, Chairman Wheeler made it clear that such issues are not to be “taken lightly” but warrant “careful consideration of all relevant and policy issues.” He pledged that there would be an “open proceeding” to ensure “the fullest opportunity for comment” and evaluation of “all relevant factual, policy and legal issues.”

CLIC encourages the public to file such comments in this critical proceeding, and provided sample comments and instructions on how to file at the FCC HERE. Comments are due August 29, Reply Comments on September 29.

CLIC FOR YOU – A CALL TO ACTION

Statement by CLIC CEO, Joanne Hovis

On July 24, 2014, the City of Wilson, NC and the Electric Power Board in Chattanooga, TN petitioned the FCC with requests to remove the legislative barriers to broadband investment and competition in their states. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has courageously gone on the record supporting all options that catalyze broadband competition including removing state barriers to community-owned networks. This is an historical time for our country, and the window of this opportunity is open now.

We need you to get involved. We need you to file comments at the FCC.  Having access to reliable modern internet service is as important as having electricity 100 years ago. The FCC needs to hear from local communities, businesses, citizens, students, children, seniors and veterans on why your local communities need to be unharnessed from the artificial strait jackets of these state laws, so that our communities can act in the best interest of their local businesses and residents, to take whatever actions are needed based on local resources so that we all have access to 21st century broadband infrastructure.

If your community has developed an advanced broadband network or entered into a public-private partnership to acquire such a network, we hope that you will share with the FCC how your community, your business, family members, veterans, children, grandparents, teachers, and others have benefited because your community was not limited by a state barrier to public investment or competition. If your community is subject to such a barrier, please tell the FCC, in as much detail as possible, how this has held back your businesses, institutions, and residents.

If you are an individual, you might prefer to use the on-line FCC “EXPRESS” file form, found with instructions we have created on how to file and where to find the form here.

For those with longer comments, use  the FCC’s “EXPERT” form. We have posted sample comments here to help stimulate your thoughts and for you to customize with your local stories and insights.  Filing instructions on how to use, and where to find the EXPERT form is on page 3 here.

Comments are due August 29th. Reply comments are due September 29.

Petitions can be found at the following links:

City of Wilson Petition for Removal of State Barriers and Exhibits WC-14-115

Electric Power Board, Chattanooga, TN Petition for Removal of State Barriers WC 14-116

Electric Power Board, Chattanooga, TN Petition Exhibits

WILSON & CHATTANOOGA  PETITION FCC CHAIRMAN WHEELER TO PREEMPT STATE BARRIERS TO BROADBAND INVESTMENT AND COMPETITION

Statement by CLIC’s CEO – Joanne Hovis

CLIC has learned that the Gigabit cities of Wilson, NC and Chattanooga, TN petitioned the FCC today to remove barriers to broadband investment and competition posed by certain provisions of Tennessee and North Carolina laws. The petitions argue that these laws were sponsored by incumbents to limit the threat of competition and have created unnecessary barriers that prevent Chattanooga and Wilson from providing their world-class gigabit Internet services to nearby areas.

The net effect is to stifle competition, harm public and private sector economic development, and extinguish associated quality of life improvements in education, health care, energy use and public safety. Nearby communities that desperately want services from these networks are prevented from receiving it. Wilson and Chattanooga have asked the FCC to step in using its authority to promote advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans and preempt these state laws; to let local choice prevail.

Because the power of incumbent providers is so great in each state legislature, there is little hope for a remedy at the state level. These petitions are part of a larger discussion at the national level, whether the promise of modern Internet access will be for ALL Americans, or only for some.

More importantly, if a community wants to partner with a local ISP or build its own network to supply services that are needed in the community, should it have the authority to make that decision itself or should incumbents be able to circumvent it with anti-competitive state laws that work in contravention to local needs and choice?  We side with Wilson and Chattanooga and believe these decisions should be made locally. Fortunately, FCC Chairman Wheeler also agrees with us.

We look forward to a robust discussion and the airing of these issues, and we encourage our members to participate in the unfolding rulemaking. This issue should be of interest to every business and resident that cares about our economy, educational opportunities, and our ability to engage in public discourse as citizens of a republic.

 

CLIC TO HOUSE OF REPRSENTATIVES: VOTE FOR LOCAL INTERNET CHOICE, AGAINST THE BLACKBURN AMENDMENT

CLIC learned late yesterday that Rep. Blackburn (R-TN) plans to propose an amendment on July 15 to House Appropriation bill HR 5016, that would preclude the FCC from using any of its funding to preempt state laws that prohibit communities from building broadband systems.

In a letter, CLIC’s CEO reminded the House of Representatives how Congress has long recognized that ensuring that all Americans have reasonable and timely access to advanced telecommunications capabilities, particularly in rural and other high-cost areas, is “the great infrastructure challenge of our time.”  CLIC calls on Congress to let communities decide their broadband futures for themselves, and to oppose this attempt to end such local internet choice.

“Our members believe that communities should be free to decide to work with willing incumbents, enter into public-private partnerships, develop their own networks, if necessary, or do whatever else may work for their citizens, businesses, and institutions.”

“At this critical time in our country’s history, we should not preclude or inhibit any potentially successful strategy that will enable our communities and America as a whole to thrive in the emerging knowledge-based global economy.  Nor can we afford to take off the table any approach that may be necessary in certain cases to remove barriers to broadband investment and competition.”

Read the letter HERE.