FTC Commissioner Pushes Municipal Broadband


Democratic FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz planned to tell a group of municipal regulators Thursday that they should start offering broadband service themselves, despite the "furious lobbying" against it by cable and telco lobbyists.

Speaking to the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors meeting in Washington Thursday, Leibowitz was expected to tell them that restrictions in a half a dozen states and one proposed federal law to preempt cities were "a bad idea," with the losers being consumers.

He also said that allowing cities to compete with the private sector might spur cable and telcos to compete in low-income and low desnity areas.

A bill introduced by Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.) would allow cities to offer broadband service, but would require them to take competitive bids and even give a preference to the private sector in case of a tie.

Leibowitz said he has asked the FTC's Office of Policy and Planning to look into whether the commission should go on the record opposing restrictions on municipal broadband, but pointed out that he was only one of several in a collegial body (and a Democrat, to boot).

"Local governments have long been laboratories of experimentation," he said. "If they want to give residents affordable Internet access, they should be allowed to try without being foreclosed by federal or state laws--or by the cable and telephone interests."

Leibowitz is former Democratic chief counsel and staff director for the U.S. Senate Antitrust Subcommittee and worked for the late Senator Paul Simon.