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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 EshooHeritage: Repealing GOP tax law would raise taxes in every district This week: Rosenstein set to meet with House GOP Timeline: Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court 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. DoyleTwitter chief faces GOP anger over bias at hearing Live coverage: Social media execs face grilling on Capitol Hill House Dems press FCC chairman for answers on false cyberattack claim MORE (D-Pa.), Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonDershowitz: Obama, Ellison have 'special obligation' to condemn Farrakhan Ellison accuses ex-wife of physical abuse, divorce records show: report Minnesota GOP Senate candidate compared Michelle Obama to a chimp in Facebook post MORE (D-Minn.), Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaGOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Silicon Valley tested by Saudi crisis Overnight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Senators seek US intel on journalist's disappearance | Army discharged over 500 immigrant recruits in one year | Watchdog knocks admiral over handling of sexual harassment case MORE (D-Calif.), Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), Mark PocanMark William PocanOvernight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Senators seek US intel on journalist's disappearance | Army discharged over 500 immigrant recruits in one year | Watchdog knocks admiral over handling of sexual harassment case Lawmakers seeking intel on alleged Saudi plot against journalist House lawmakers introduce bill to end US support in Yemen civil war MORE (D-Wis.) and Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisHeritage: Repealing GOP tax law would raise taxes in every district Trump endorses Walker Stapleton in Colorado gubernatorial race #MeToo madness could destroy male college athletes 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 BookerBooker holds 'Get Out the Vote' event in South Carolina as presidential speculation builds Senate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia Biden: ‘Totally legitimate’ to question age if he runs in 2020 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.”