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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 EshooHillicon Valley: Senate unanimously confirms Chris Inglis as first White House cyber czar | Scrutiny mounts on Microsoft's surveillance technology | Senators unveil bill to crack down on cyber criminals FCC votes to advance proposed ban on Chinese telecom equipment Pharmaceutical industry donated to two-thirds of Congress ahead of 2020 elections: analysis 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. DoyleCongressional CEO grillings can't solve disinformation: We need a public interest regulator Hillicon Valley: Another Big Tech hearing | Cyber Command flexes operations | Trump's social media site in the works Lawmakers vent frustration in first hearing with tech CEOs since Capitol riot MORE (D-Pa.), Keith EllisonKeith EllisonMinneosta AG's office to prosecute case against officer charged in killing of Daunte Wright State trial for former officers charged in George Floyd's death moved to next year Lawyer for former officer charged in George Floyd death alleges witness coercion MORE (D-Minn.), Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaPublic option fades with little outcry from progressives Democrats shift tone on unemployment benefits Khanna outlines how progressives will push in climate infrastructure proposal MORE (D-Calif.), Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), Mark PocanMark William PocanThe Memo: The pre-Trump 'normal' is gone for good Overnight Defense: Pentagon pitches 5B budget | Kamala Harris addresses US Naval Academy graduates Pentagon pitches 5B budget with cuts to older weapons MORE (D-Wis.) and Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisColorado legislature approves measure to ban styrofoam, add fee to single use products Colorado to offer ,000 scholarships for young people to get vaccinated Supreme Court justice denies Colorado churches' challenge to lockdown authority 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 BookerCongress must act to correct flaws in the First Step Act Democrats introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for government discrimination Zombie Tax punishes farmers to fill DC coffers 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.”