Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai today issued a statement assessing state and local governments’ potential role in the delayed deployment of an all Internet Protocol (IP) digital infrastructure. Here is some of what he said today:
“It is critically important that states and local communities adopt broadband-friendly policies when it comes to rights-of-way management. When broadband service providers seek to construct next-generation networks, they need to access government-controlled land, poles, and conduits in order to lay fiber and install other infrastructure. Currently, too many providers who try to obtain such access are confronted with daunting sets of federal, state, and/or municipal regulations that often delay and sometimes deter infrastructure investment and broadband deployment .”
“More generally, to enable the nationwide deployment of next-generation networks like
Google Fiber, we need to eliminate regulatory barriers to innovation and investment at all levels
of government. Whether we are dealing with economic regulation or rights-of-way management,
we cannot apply 20th century approaches to our 21st century challenges.”
Commissioner Pai has hit it on the nail head. As I tweeted earlier today, local governments have been on an extortion rampage when it comes to extracting franchise fees for I-Net projects and funding their in-house television studios so that they can broadcast useful information like how to get your cat out of a tree without calling the fire department. These fees are eventually passed through to consumers on their cable and telephone bills.
It’s no wonder Verizon said enough is enough and opted for an agreement to just cross sell video distribution services rather than go through the onerous process of satisfying a local government’s need to play local broadcaster.
In addition, these onerous rights-of-way management requirements not only increase fees on consumer bills, but keep out potential broadband competitors. Just ask Starpower and RCN about their experiences with Fairfax County, Virginia, then you’ll see why Cox and Comcast have been sole providers of cable in that county for decades.
Mr. Pai’s assessment is spot on. If his fellow commissioners are serious about broadband deployment spreading universally throughout the U.S., then it si time they put their ears to the ground in local jurisdictions.