CLIC Endorses federal Community Broadband Act (HR 1631)

The Coalition for Local Internet Choice endorses H.R. 1631, the “Community Broadband Act of 2021,” which Reps. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Jered Golden (D-Maine), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), introduced on March 8, 2021.  This legislation will remove state roadblocks to community broadband initiatives and public-private broadband partnerships while at the same time safeguarding incumbent service providers from discriminatory local regulation.  It mirrors language found in H.R. 2, passed last year by the full House of Representatives.

Nineteen states have laws that restrict local communities from developing their own advanced communications networks or from entering into partnerships to obtain them. These restrictions shield incumbent providers from competition and tie the hands of communities that want to improve their broadband options, particularly in unserved or underserved areas.

CLIC President, Jim Baller, said: “The pandemic has made it unmistakably clear that state restrictions on local broadband options are bad for the communities involved, bad for the private sector, and bad for America’s global competitiveness.  The nineteen existing state barriers should never have been enacted, and when H.R. 1631 passes, these laws will be no longer be able to thwart local decision-making involving this essential infrastructure.”

CLIC CEO Joanne Hovis added: “While the resulting harm of these inhibiting state laws to local communities is obvious, the injury to the private sector may not be. These state prohibitions hurt the private sector in multiple ways. They prevent private companies from making timely sales of equipment and services to public networks. They impede private companies from using advanced public networks to offer businesses and residential customers modern and innovative products and services. They thwart economic and educational opportunities used to build a skilled workforce that benefit existing and new businesses across the state.  They also discourage private companies from entering into creative public-private partnerships that offer local internet choice.”

As Senator John McCain said on the US Senate floor in 2005 in the course of introducing a predecessor of H.R. 1631, “As a country, we cannot afford to cut off any successful strategy if we want to remain internationally competitive.”