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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 EshooHow to expand rural broadband, fast and affordably Hillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses 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. DoyleBiden's gain is Democratic baseball's loss with Cedric Richmond White House getting pushback on possible government-owned 5G network Hillicon Valley: DOJ accuses Russian hackers of targeting 2018 Olympics, French elections | Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats | House Democrats slam FCC over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump MORE (D-Pa.), Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonProgressives unveil Biden Cabinet wish list Officers involved with George Floyd killing will stand trial together in Minneapolis, judge decides Trump lashes out at state officials over virus restrictions at Minnesota rally MORE (D-Minn.), Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOvernight Defense: Defense bill among Congress's year-end scramble | Iranian scientist's assassination adds hurdles to Biden's plan on nuclear deal | Navy scrapping USS Bonhomme Richard after fire Biden faces new Iran challenges after nuclear scientist killed Biden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far MORE (D-Calif.), Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), Mark PocanMark William PocanCapitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview Katherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election MORE (D-Wis.) and Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisFauci says US could have herd immunity by end of summer 2021 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Coast-to-coast fears about post-holiday COVID-19 spread Colorado governor, spouse test positive for COVID-19 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 BookerBiden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Policy center calls for new lawmakers to make diverse hires Dangerously fast slaughter speeds are putting animals, people at greater risk during COVID-19 crisis 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.”