Cities to federal government: Don't tell us how to build our internet

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At the end of January, San Jose's (CA) Mayor, Sam Liccardo, brought the issue of the digital divide fight into the open, publicly resigning from a Federal Communications Commission committee tasked with recommending ways to speed up broadband deployment. "I concluded that there is no will from this FCC or from this committee to put the lip service about bridging the digital divide into action," Mayor Liccardo said. "And I decided it was time to stop participating in this charade that there was a legitimate voice for local communities at this table."

For years, cities have struggled to maintain control over the internet's infrastructure in their jurisdictions. At least 19 states have passed laws limiting cities' ability to launch publicly-owned broadband networks, which companies like AT&T and Comcast say represent undue government interference in the marketplace. Mayors have turned to the courts to win back their rights, with some success. But only recently have cities faced a threat from the federal government. Last spring, President Donald Trump's newly appointed FCC chair Ajit Pai convened the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee to work on a set of recommended standards that states and municipalities can adopt to govern the build out of their local internet infrastructure. But cities charge that the BDAC's membership is heavily weighted toward companies and their trade associations, with only a smattering of consumer groups, academics, Native American tribes, and local government officials. There are no municipal representatives on the state code working group, for example.


Cities to federal government: Don't tell us how to build our internet