Lobbyists ask FCC to hit cities with another taxpayer funded broadband mugging

by Steve Blum • , , ,

The ravaging horde of (largely) telco and cable lobbyists known as the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband deployment advisory committee (BDAC) has drafted its latest letter to Santa advice to FCC chair Ajit Pai.

Not surprisingly, it thinks that Charter Communications, Comcast, AT&T and other monopoly model broadband service providers aren’t getting enough love from local governments. Love, in this case, meaning give us everything you have, then go out and get us more.

If a city owns dark fiber, then it should be required to hand it over to “any private sector communications provider” on demand, and only be allowed to keep enough for its “reasonably anticipated 50-year fiber needs”. That’s one of the giveaways that telecoms lobbyists put into the latest draft of their model state broadband code. The FCC already endorsed the seizure of city property, such as light poles, in the public right of way, so the next step, according to the draft, is to claim the same squatters rights on “buildings and other vertical assets that are located outside of the public right of way”.

But why stop at taxpayer owned assets? Why not tax anyone whose business depends on broadband, and give it to telcos? As Jon Brodkin writes in Ars Technica, that’s what AT&T asked for, and largely got…

An AT&T executive who is on the FCC advisory committee argued that the recommended tax should apply even more broadly, to any business that benefits financially from broadband access in any way. The committee ultimately adopted a slightly more narrow recommendation that would apply the tax to subscription services and advertising-supported services only.

It’s difficult to imagine that the FCC will try to impose this wish list on states and local governments, but then it was hard to believe they’d try to preempt local ownership of street light poles. As they did.

More likely, this time around the republican majority on the FCC will say you’ve been nice little lobbyists this year, and put their stamp of approval on the draft. Then they’ll hand it down to state lawmakers who are, collectively, being paid millions of dollars by those same lobbyists.