Muni Broadband Bill Introduced in Virginia

Municipal broadband backer the Institute for Local Self-Reliance is taking aim at a new Virginia bill that would impose specific requirements on local governments seeking to build out broadband with taxpayer dollars.

The bill—introduced in the Virginia assembly last week—allows for such buildouts but only targeting unserved areas, which it defines as an average speed of less than 10 Mbps download speed, 1 Mbps upload.

It also requires an independent study to identify unserved areas before any buildouts. It puts conditions on overbuilding of any existing service at any speed.

The municipality must also provide access to rights of way on a first-come, first-serve basis to commercial providers and can't cross-subsidize its broadband with regulated utility money.

The institute says that while the bill allows for buildouts, it is instead a way for "big cable companies to limit broadband competition in Virginia.

"These communities are already disadvantaged because they lack access to high-quality, affordable Internet service. This legislation is designed to further burden them," said Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in a statement. "This bills seeks to further solidify the monopoly Virginia's ISPs enjoy at the expense of Virginians."

The FCC under chairman Tom Wheeler attempted to preempt state laws limiting or conditioning broadband buildouts, but a federal court rejected that effort and the incoming Republicans voted against preemption as an FCC overreach.

(Photo via Rock1997Image taken on Jan. 18, 2017 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 3x4 aspect ratio.)

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.