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New Century Cities Adds New Member

A consortium of cities and counties working together to expand municipal broadband has added its 50th member, Medina County, Ohio, the group said.

New Century Cities formed in October to present a united front on the issue. Cable operators have pushed back on municipal broadband initiatives, arguing that they are often unfair government-funded overbuilds of existing service.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is a big backer of muni broadband, arguing that the ISP pushback is an attempt to prevent price and service competition.

The cities, which include Los Angeles, Boston, and Kansas City, banded together to "lead the conversation" about the benefits of municipal broadband and what they called its "gigabit future." One key principle, the group says, is that "towns and cities should have the right to consider all options – whether public, nonprofit, corporate, or some other hybrid – free from interference."

The FCC is currently considering petitions from two of the group's members to preempt state laws limiting broadband buildouts.

The Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, Tenn., and the City of Wilson, N.C., last summer petitioned the FCC to preempt state statutes limiting their provision of broadband service, a move FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler signaled he wanted to make.

The petitioners allege "state laws restrict their ability to expand their broadband service offerings to surrounding areas where customers have expressed interest in these services," said the FCC in announcing the new dockets (14-115 and 14-116). "And they request that the Commission preempt such laws."

Wheeler has argued that such state limits were pushed through by ISP's trying to foreclose competition. Those ISPs argue the government should not be subsidizing their competitors, and point to examples of cities who failed at building out networks and left taxpayers to pay for those miscalculations. Then there is the ISPs' point about not being able to make a business case for pricing their service competitively with a subsidized entrant.