Right now, state legislatures — where the incumbentswield great power — are keeping towns and cities in theU.S. from making their own choices about theircommunications networks. Meanwhile, municipalities,cooperatives and small independent companies arepractically the only entities building globally competitivenetworks these days. Both AT&T and Verizon have ceased theexpansion of next-generation fiber installations across theU.S., and the cable companies??? services greatly favordownloads over uploads.
Congress needs to intervene. One way it could help isby preempting state laws that erect barriers to the abilityof local jurisdictions to provide communications servicesto their citizens.
Running for president in 1932, Franklin D. Rooseveltemphasized the right of communities to provide their ownelectricity. ???I might call the right of the people to ownand operate their own utility a birch rod in the cupboard,???he said, ???to be taken out and used only when the child getsbeyond the point where more scolding does any good.??? It???stime to take out that birch rod.