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The Internet Association backs FCC's muni broadband push

Shocker: internet companies want more people on the internet

Count the likes of eBay, Facebook, and Twitter among those who support the FCC's plan to allow municipal governments to become ISPs.

The Internet Association, an industry group whose membership also includes Google, Amazon, and Yahoo!, has filed an amicus brief with the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the FCC in its legal battle with Tennessee and North Carolina.

The filing [PDF] asks the court to find in favor of the FCC's argument that states must allow city and county governments to build their own networks and offer internet services to citizens.

The two states argue that by getting into the internet service business, the local governments run afoul of laws that forbid them from competing with private businesses - laws that were passed with heavy lobbying support by existing ISPs.

The cities and FCC have countered that cable companies are not providing adequate service in many areas currently, making government-run services necessary.

Some localities have gone so far as to overturn the competition laws rather than wait for the FCC action to take place.

Such was the case with Chattanooga, a Tennessee city that kicked off the debate when it built and launched a service for members of its community.

The Internet Association backed the FCC's argument that telecom providers such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon are simply not interested or able to offer quality broadband service in many parts of the country, necessitating that government agencies step in to fill the gap.

"Broadband deployment in the United States has failed to keep pace with today's Internet offerings of advanced, high-quality voice, data, graphics and video offerings," the Association writes.

"This failure is especially acute in rural communities, where over 50 per cent of Americans lack access to broadband services."

The amicus brief goes on to argue that even in areas that are covered by commercial ISPs, customers often lack any real choice in carriers and the dearth of competition is keeping Americans from enjoying faster, more reliable service.

The members of the Internet Association have, of course, a commercial interest in the matter. Many of the companies in the group rely on ecommerce and advertising for most or all of their revenues, and the spread of high-speed broadband service in the US will only improve their customer reach.

The Association argues, however, that there are also benefits to be realized by everyone from small businesses to construction companies and real estate brokers.

"Investments by communities in broadband access networks also provide economic and social benefits: creating jobs and keeping critical jobs; attracting new businesses and incubating start-ups; and saving money and increasing home values," the brief reads.

"In addition, each community is uniquely situated to understand its residents and businesses' needs, seek partners that will accommodate those needs, and build a broadband access network to the community’s specifications."

The cases, Tennessee v FCC and North Carolina v FCC, numbers 15-3291 and 15-3555, respectively, are currently being heard by the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, OH. ®

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