House Dems want to give cities the right to build broadband networks

House Dems want to give cities the right to build broadband networks
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A group of House Democrats introduced a bill on Thursday that would give local communities the right to build their own broadband networks and compete with established providers like Comcast and Verizon.

The group, led by Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooDems float revoking congressional medal for Myanmar leader Overnight Tech: FTC nominees promise focus on data breaches | FCC chair backs SpaceX broadband project | AT&T wants antitrust chief to testify in merger trial Overnight Tech: Senate extends NSA spy program | Apple to allow customers to disable phone slowdowns | Amazon down to 20 HQ2 finalists | Facebook gets first black board member MORE (D-Calif.), say that protecting the right to build community broadband networks would help expand internet access to underserved communities and benefit consumers who already have access by promoting competition.

“Broadband Internet is the most vital tool of the 21st Century economy,” Eshoo said in a statement. “Unfortunately, millions of Americans are still acutely impacted by a complete lack of or an inferior broadband connection. The Community Broadband Act is an important step in bridging the digital divide and will help local governments enable connectivity, increase economic growth and create jobs.”

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Also sponsoring the bill are Reps. Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleFCC defends GOP commissioners' appearance at CPAC House Dems, GOP clash over internet 'fast lanes' Live coverage: Zuckerberg faces second day on Capitol Hill MORE (D-Pa.), Keith EllisonKeith Maurice Ellison Keith Ellison: 'Women are dying because we are losing elections' Dem says frosted glass indicates lack of 'transparency' at CFPB Overnight Health Care: Trump officials create new mandate exemptions | Insurance official warns of premium spikes | Dem questions hiring of drug pricing official MORE (D-Minn.), Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaLawmakers rip Trump for not seeking congressional approval for Syria strikes March for Our Lives to leave empty seats for lawmakers at town halls When we can’t agree to fight against neo-Nazis, we’ve reached a new low MORE (D-Calif.), Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), Mark PocanMark William PocanThe curious case of Andrew McCabe's legal defense fund Moderates see vindication in Lipinski’s primary win DeVos battles lawmakers in contentious hearing MORE (D-Wis.) and Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisLawmakers question FBI director on encryption McGovern tapped to replace Slaughter as top Dem on Rules panel Tom Tancredo drops out of Colorado gubernatorial race MORE (D-Colo.). The Community Broadband Act would preempt states from passing laws that prohibit municipal broadband networks.

The bill has been pushed before, most recently by Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerOvernight Cybersecurity: Senators eye path forward on election security bill | Facebook isn't winning over privacy advocates | New hacks target health care Kamala Harris will no longer accept corporate PAC money Pompeo faces pivotal vote MORE (D-N.J.) last year. Eshoo last introduced the legislation in 2016. In both cases, the bills stalled in committee.

The latest iteration comes as both Democrats and Republicans in Congress are jockeying to make broadband expansion a major tenet of the White House’s promised $1 trillion infrastructure plan, which could be released as early as this month.

The idea has also regained momentum following the Federal Communications Commission’s decision last month to eliminate its net neutrality rules, a measure which forced internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally.

Still, Republicans are largely opposed to municipalities building out their own broadband offerings and have fought against local efforts in places like Chattanooga, Tenn.

Democrats insist that public networks would fill in the gaps the market has left behind.

“All too often, communities around the country struggle to get service from private providers, and where people can get service all too often it’s too slow and costs too much,” Doyle said in a statement. “Communities that build out their own broadband networks offer competitive options that not only bring service to the unserved, but also promote competition in underserved areas.”