back to article FCC boss threatens to BRING WRATH DOWN on states that limit broadband competition

The head of the US Federal Communications Commission has threatened to take action against states that limit the ability of cities to build their own broadband networks. Chairman Tom Wheeler said that the commission is prepared to overrule state laws that would restrict cities from deploying community-funded broadband networks …


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  1. Mikel

    Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman and chief cable industry lobbyist

    That PDF you quote broadband competition from has a statistical quirk: it is by census tract. So if one home has Comcast available, one has TWC available, and nobody else has any Internet whatsoever, that counts as "two or more competing broadband providers" for the entire census tract. It has other problems as well. Please be responsible and read the terms and conditions before spreading the misinformation that has been attached to this survey. Read it first at least.

    1. Oninoshiko

      Re: Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman and chief cable industry lobbyist

      Even if that weren't the case (and I fully believe you are correct), a duopoly is not what I consider a healthy competition.

      The reality is, broadband service is a natural monopoly, you can't just have everyone ripping of the roads every week installing fiber. The best solution is to have the municipalities install and maintain a fiber network, then let whoever wants to sell service over it do so (for a nominal fee, to offset the maintenance).

  2. dan1980

    ". . . they shouldn’t be stopped by state laws promoted by cable and telephone companies that don’t want that competition . . ."

    Quite right too - promoting cable companies' interests is a federal responsibility. Tsk, tsk.

  3. Uncle Ron


    "...the commission would encourage other cities to consider their own public broadband services to compete with commercial carriers in underserved areas."

    Exactly what does cable-lobbyist Wheeler mean by "underserved?" Does he mean "rural" or "poor" or does he simply mean the areas the monopoly cable system doesn't care about? Because they can't make a profit. He's looking for an excuse for his buddies not to have to "serve" them.

    IMHO, at least 67% of U.S. households are in "underserved" areas. Where there is essentially no competition for the lucky, incumbent, franchised monopoly. That is, 2 or fewer "broadband" providers. Let me stress that if you more realistically define what broadband is, as NOT being DSL, there is ONE provider. The local cable system monopoly.

    I don't trust one breath the current chairman of the US FCC takes. Not one.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Broadband is not DSL?

      So the 20/5 service I have, which I could upgrade to 40/20 if I cared to isn't broadband? In some areas my ISP (Centurylink) offers 80/40 and 100/12. Are those not broadband?

      The 300 Mbps DOCSIS 3.0 starting to become available, or gigabit fiber that are available in a handful of places are nice, but not actually needed unless you're moving around bulk data.

      In the future there might be a reason why 80/40 service isn't good enough, but I can't think of a single application today that requires it. Maybe if you need to stream more than 3 "ultra 4K" videos from Netflix at 25 Mbps, simultaneously?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    typical Obama-bot neo-liberal corpocrat

    All talk, no action, no substance and for sale to the highest bidder.

    The Internet as we used to know it has already been sold to Comcast, Verizon and AT&T. Get ready to pay twice what you're paying now for the same uber-shitty service.

    I live in NYC and I pay Time Warner Cable an extra $50/month for their super-speed cable broadband. Supposedly I should be getting 30Mb/sec down and 10Mb/sec up.

    For starters I never understood why it has to be asymmetrical. It's not like sending packets upstream is more expensive or somehow more difficult than receiving packets downstream. It's the same wire. And no, it's not my router. Said router supports 100Mb WAN and 1Gb LAN.

    At any rate, I have never gotten the advertised and paid-for speeds, not even at off-peak times - for example at 4AM on a Monday morning. At best, I get half the advertised speed downstream. Upstream it's more like 1/4 the advertised speed.

    Complaining to Time Warner is useless.

    1. Fatman Silver badge

      Re: typical Obama-bot neo-liberal corpocrat

      For starters I never understood why it has to be asymmetrical.

      There are a number of reasons, let's start with the most obvious one - you download a lot more than you upload.

      Since you mentioned TWC, it is likely that you have 'cable internet'. If my understanding is correct, for any given DOCSIS channel, it is either upstream or downstream, but not both. TWC, and most other cable ISPs want to maximize the number of subscribers on a cable route, so they divvy up the channels amongst the subscribers.

      And, lastly, the comment about never getting the maximum, your cable route is quite like over subscribed (aka "congestion").

      Unlike (part of) DSL, cable is a shared medium. IIRC, with DSL, you have your own 'two lane highway' back to the DSLAM, upstream beyond that, it is shared.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: typical Obama-bot neo-liberal corpocrat

        > There are a number of reasons, let's start with the most obvious one - you download a lot more than you upload.

        Thank you so much for your braindead parroting of TWC's official party line answer. It's asymmetrical because I download more than upload? What does one have to do with the other?

        How much I upload is my own personal choice and derived usage pattern. TWC enforcing slower speeds on upload as opposed to download is not my choice: it is TWC's imposition of an arbitrary restriction for which there is no real technical justification.

        My concern is about getting what I have paid for. I am paying for 30Mb/sec down and 10Mb/sec up. That is not happening.

        I do not care to hear lame excuses about why TWC cannot deliver on their contractual obligations. I do not care hearing it from TWC, and I do not care hearing it from TWC paid mouthpieces such as yourself, either.

        What would be even more pathetic is if you were shilling for TWC as a vocational hobby. Meaning, for free.

        Classifying TWC's cable internet as a Common Carrier would solve these problems. For starters, upload and download speeds would become regulatory requirements.

  5. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    I appreciate the thought...

    But I'd rather that the FCC promote net neutrality rather than potentially alienate state-level supporters or get into a fight about what constitutes interstate commerce (that the feds do have the right to regulate) vs. intrastate commerce.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I appreciate the thought...

      > But I'd rather that the FCC promote net neutrality

      Nobody except a marketing hack would want the FCC "promoting" net neutrality. That's like asking the US Department of Energy to start promoting electricity.

      Most of us want the FCC enforcing net neutrality. There's a difference between promoting and enforcing.

      And I'll bet that most of us won't give a rat's ass if some corrupt state senator gets all hissy because the FCC would be trampling all over his or her state's right to unlimited corruption.

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

        Re: I appreciate the thought...

        But the courts might care if they uphold the state senator's challenge by deciding these state laws only affect commerce within each state, and therefore are not impeding the federal government's powers to regulate commerce between states.

        In short, it doesn't matter what "most of us" want if the feds overreach on their powers under the constitution and their regulation gets struck down. I have no idea about the case law here, but as far as I know it is certainly possible that the power of state legislatures to regulate ISP commerce within their state would be upheld.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I appreciate the thought...

          The courts have already ruled on matters relating to FCC's power to regulate broadband. The states have no say in this - for obvious reasons, all of them stemming from how TCP packets travel over a network and are re-assembled at various points between origin and destination.

          This is purely and exclusively a federal matter.

          Look up Telecommunications Act of 1996 and Chevron Doctrine.

        2. Tom 13

          Re: only affect commerce within each state

          That horse is gone, dead, and his carcass cleaned by the buzzards ages ago. It died way back in The Great Depression when SCOTUS ruled that a farmer growing corn to feed to his chickens ran afoul of one of FDR's socialist "you can't grow that without government permission" laws.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: only affect commerce within each state

            Except for the fact that both the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the Chevron Doctrine SCOTUS ruling (1984) were written many decades after FDR's death.

            But, in the la-la-land of right-wing commentards, reality always carries a left-leaning political bias.

  6. ptmmac

    At least they are going after the worst offenders

    In North Carolina, it is illegal for a city to offer their own broad band to compete with the current incumbents. The cable companies got this passed in a direct quid pro quo deal.

    Even if this is just lipstick on a pig, if they just stop the outright sale of our connectivity options to the highest bidder we could all benefit. Even an attempt at appearing fair would be better than the status Quo

    1. phil dude

      Re: At least they are going after the worst offenders

      I suspect it is the same across the Smokies here in K'ville....


  7. Timo

    sounds good, or is it?

    At first glance I'm all for this, get me any access that isn't from one of the craptacular major providers. A little competition can go a very long way in terms of raising the bar on service or pricing, or both.

    But on second thought, if this comes down to municipal/town doing the rollouts, then color me cynical. This will be another avenue to hire the mayor's brother in law, or neighbor, to do the deployment and network management, to nobody's benefit except a couple of cronies. My town completely screwed up a garbage contract, handing more profits to the garbage collection company, so it scares me how they might "manage" a broadband system.

    Although there is probably already enough cronyism in the existing 3-player system, that what's the big deal of adding a 4th player?

    1. Oninoshiko

      Re: sounds good, or is it?

      Most of the time, municipal roll-outs go quite well, from what I've seen. I'm sure there is some cronyism that happens, but mostly they start because the people on the board are pissed they can't get on. So the first time the mayor's cousin screws up access, he's gone.

  8. Tom 13

    For a minute there I thought I was going to be happy.

    I read the headline and thought 'Great! About time too!' And then I read the article and discovered it is nothing of the sort. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The states are quite right when they prohibit politicians from diverting public monies to what would otherwise would be commercially viable enterprises. Where they go wrong is when they corrupt those enterprises by creating monopoly conditions via restrictive regulation. The FCC would be within its delegated powers and the Constitution if they came down on those states that enable the monopolies. But turning the state into the monopoly is even worse than what we have now.

    If the people of an area want to setup non-governmental NPOs for internet service, I'm fine with that. But it cannot be the state directly, which is what this jackalope is trumpeting.

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