Jim Baller, an attorney who represents governments seeking to build their own municipal networks, has issued a statement about the municipal network providsion of the Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act, introduced by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nevada). The full statement is here (PDF).
Baller writes that the bill rests on five fundamentally false assumptions:
- local governments have an unfair advantage over the private sector
- these supposed advantages should be transferred to the private sector but without "the corresponding duties and accountability in serving the public interest" that apply to government
- that the incumbent providers, which enjoy monopoly positions, have failed to provide universal service because of lack of access to government advantages, "rather than their own short-term profit objectives
- that significant changes to a host of federal, state and local laws won't be required
- that communities that won bids would realistically fund projects
He writes that:
The procedures set forth in the bill are unnecessary, unworkable and counterproductive. At best, they would result in time-consuming, expensive, burdensome, and contentious delays and possibly years of litigation. Such procedures have no place in a bill that is intended to speed up America’s recovery of its leadership in the emerging broadband-based global economy.
[They] would also create a host of disincentives and unintended consequences. For many communities, it would retard economic development, educational opportunity, homeland security, public safety, cultural enrichment, and the many other benefits that access to affordable advanced telecommunications capability and services would foster. It would disserve America’s private sector, particularly our high-technology industry, which has been a willing partner in municipal networks nationwide and would be a major beneficiary of a rapid increase in broadband deployment across the United States.
It would also stand in the way of America’s rapid recovery from its precipitous decline in standing among the leading nations in the world in broadband penetration, access to high-bandwidth capacity, and cost per unit of bandwidth.