FCC offers first class and coach options for commenting on muni broadband petitions

30 July 2014 by Steve Blum
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The FCC now has two petitions in front of it, asking that state restrictions on municipal broadband be swept aside. In both cases – Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina – the cities are already operating fiber-to-the-home systems in conjunction with muni electric utilities and want to expand their service areas. The Tennessee and North Carolina laws are different, but each in its own way effectively prevents FTTH expansion outside of the city or its immediate surroundings.

On Monday, the FCC started the clock running on public input. They’re allowing a month to file comments supporting or opposing the petitions – the deadline is 29 August – and then another month for rebuttals. The easy way to offer your opinion is to file comments electronically, using the same online system that more than million people used to file comments about network neutrality. The system buckled under that traffic load, but I doubt that muni broadband will generate as much passion. Even so, it’s likely to prove a lively debate.

On the other hand, if you prefer a private conversation with an FCC commissioner about it and you have enough pull to get an appointment, it’s OK to do it, so long as a summary of what was said is made public…

The proceeding this Notice initiates shall be treated as a “permit-but-disclose” proceeding in accordance with the Commission’s ex parte rules. Persons making ex parte presentations must file a copy of any written presentation or a memorandum summarizing any oral presentation within two business days after the presentation…Persons making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that memoranda summarizing the presentation must (1) list all persons attending or otherwise participating in the meeting at which the ex parte presentation was made, and (2) summarize all data presented and arguments made during the presentation.

Those disclosures could be the most interesting of all. Particularly the lists of attendees. Particularly if chair Tom Wheeler and his Beltway telecoms lobbyist friends actually follow the rules.