Obama’s calls for government-run Internet service stoke GOP ire

President Obama’s call for more cities and towns to create their own broadband Internet services to compete with private companies like Comcast is meeting stiff opposition from many Republicans.

Unlike the president’s previous proposals this week to bulk up U.S. cybersecurity and protect Americans’ identities online — which were largely welcomed on Capitol Hill — he waded into hotly partisan waters on Wednesday by unveiling a plan to eliminate state laws limiting local government-run Web connections.

{mosads}Republicans were swift to denounce the president on Wednesday, as he spoke in Cedar Falls, Iowa — a town that has created its own municipally-owned broadband Internet provider.

“In Tennessee we have a term to describe people like President Obama — tone-deaf,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said in a statement.

“At a time when Americans think the biggest problem facing our nation today is big government, you would think he’d have gotten the message by now,” she added. “We don’t need unelected bureaucrats like FCC [Federal Communications Commission] Chairman Tom Wheeler dictating to our states what they can and can’t do with respect to protecting their limited taxpayer dollars and private enterprises.”

In 19 states, there are laws on the books limiting local governments from building out their own municipal Internet services.

The FCC has been asked by two cities — in North Carolina and in Tennessee — to override those laws. Obama on Wednesday urged the FCC to do just that.

“I’m on the side of competition,” Obama said during his speech at a Cedar Falls utility plant.

Supporters of the move say that it would help create more competition for broadband service, and many Democrats cheered Obama’s call. According to the FCC, more than half the country has just one option for high-speed broadband Internet service with download speeds of 25 Mbps or higher.

Critics, however, say that it would amount to Washington intervention in local laws.

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who worked on laws to limit municipal broadband networks when she was in the state legislature, accused Obama of advancing a “Washington-centric” approach that would “set a dangerous precedent and have real impacts on local communities and businesses.”

The FCC will vote on the request to preempt state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee at its meeting next month.

Both Republicans on the five-member commission blasted Obama’s call on Tuesday, likely setting the stage for a narrow vote along party lines.

Tags Deb Fischer Federal Communications Commission Marsha Blackburn Municipal broadband
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