Proposed Law Would Bar State-Run Broadband

John Lister's picture

A proposed US law would ban states and local governments from offering broadband services. Supporters of the bill say "municipal broadband" crowds out commercial providers, while critics say such services only exist to fill the gap left by the commercial market.

If passed, the bill would become law as the CONNECT (Communities Overregulating Networks Need Economic Competition Today) Act. It would ban any state or political subdivision (such as a city) from starting to provide "retail or wholesale broadband Internet access service." (Source:

This would apply whether it was provided to the public or to a business, including on a wholesale basis. That would appear to rule out building a broadband network and then leasing it to a cable company or other telecommunications company.

State Lines Enforced

States which already offer broadband would have to stop unless there were the only one and/or there were no commercial providers in their area. In this case the state could continue but would have to tell all users if a new commercial provider entered the market. They'd also be barred from providing service to anyone outside of their state or area.

For some reason, the bill specifically excludes the state-owned Tennessee Valley Authority from its measures.

The Register notes there are twenty-two states that already have local laws which either ban or restrict municipal broadband. However, many states have some form of government-backed broadband provision, often in areas where telecommunications businesses have chosen not to invest in building networks. (Source:

Philosophical Differences

The debate on the bill is likely to involve both philosophical and practical arguments. To some it's about the principle of whether government should involve itself in commercial matters and what effect that has on competition. To others it's a question of whether broadband counts as necessary infrastructure where public funding is necessary for situations where there's not enough profit potential for the market to provide.

Given the current political makeup of Congress and the White House, the bill appears extremely unlikely to first pass and then either be signed into law by the President or a veto be overturned.

What's Your Opinion?

Should states or local government be allowed to set up or offer broadband services? Does such action plug gaps in the market or deter more efficient commercial provision? Should this be a state-by-state issue or is a national ban appropriate?

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (11 votes)


Navy vet's picture

Competition would give consumers more choices.

Gurugabe's picture

Where can we go to support our officials to vote no on this? I live in one of those areas where city provided broadband would be beneficial. I live in a remote, rural town with a high poverty rate and the only 2 providers here charge more for their services than any of the big urban cities near us. Considerably more. Since we are rural and there are many large farms and ranches near here, many are left out of any choices for internet. What is worse, most of our students are remote learning due to COVID and since many can't afford internet, they had to seek help. I work for the school district and we had to purchase cellular hotspots for a good majority of our remote students. We had only one provider here for many years and he had to close shop and pass his customers on to the 2 providers, which since we are not in their general service area, really don't care about us. It took a year for me to get internet at my house with one of these providers. If our city could afford the expense and if we could get a decent person to manage and run it that doesn't mind living in a remote area, it would be great for the community. I tried to fill in as their IT person for a few years, but since I am the main IT person at the school district, I did not have the time to split between the 2. Especially since government employees can't "double dip" or work somewhere else and getting paid while working there and getting paid so all of my work at the city had to be after I left the school for the day. It became too difficult after a while since they did not have any spare computers and if a system went down in the morning, they would have to sit there and do nothing until I came in and repaired their computer.

DavidInMississippi's picture

According to the 10th Amendement to the Constitution, neither the congress nor any other agency of the U.S. Government has the authority to pass such a law. Read the amendment and you'll see what I mean.

dan_2160's picture

As a member of the Bar of the US Supreme Court since 1995, I'm quite confident that the 10th amendment does not apply here because this terrible piece of legislation falls under Article I, Section 8, popularly known as the Commerce Clause: "The Congress shall have Power … to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." Even an Interntw service offered only in one state would be covered because it carries interstate commerce and would fall within the powers the Commerce Clause grants to the federal government. So while the 10th amendment leaves to the states the powers not granted to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution, this sort of regulation does fall under those powers granted to the federal government.

I want to stress however, that this is a simply reprehensible piece of legislation that likely will garner lots of Republican support and even some support from Democrats who the cable industry buys off. But I am pretty darned confident that President Biden would veto it and the votes wouldn't be there to override his veto.

russoule's picture

what makes you think that a man whose son extorted $10 billion (with a 10% payable to the Big Boss) from the Chinese is immune to the money offered by the big communication companies?

dan_2160's picture

'Tis a sad day when this wonderful website is abused…
Oh hell, it's not worth spending any time debunking the fiction proffered by russoule.

margaretc_14583's picture

As noted elsewhere, no, broadband is *not* available. and not noted elsehere, not everyone can afford it.

doulosg's picture

I opposed local efforts to establish municipal broadband, but we lost the vote. The people who don't want government in their lives are fine with broadband, it seems. But no one else is stepping up to Gigabit fiber in town, and I can't wait to get connected. Of course, it's government run and taking forever to get to my neighborhood. Regardless, these choices should be left up to local voters, not the US Congress.

pctyson's picture

I lived in a small city/town that made sure that brodaband made its way to a fortune 100 Ham and pork producing company. We who were one and a half miles on the outskirts were left with VERY old DSL servive by a very large phone company that starts with "V" and ends in "N". The very best I could get was 3 megabits. The worse part is that the service would go down for weeks at a time (and at least twice for over a month). This happened at least every 3 months.I am NOT exagerating when I say that I spent at LEAST 100 hours on the phone with them over the years that I lived there. I even had the direct number to one of the top executives at one time but that did not get any wheels turning. Internet service is NOT a luxury anymore. It is a necessity for these outlying areas. This is especially true during the pandemic. I now live in Florida and I am at least 20 miles from any sizeable town but somehow they have found a way to provide 50 Mbit service out here. There are times when government needs to step up to the plate to either provide the internet service or through legislation cause internet service to be provided. This has been true of electric companies. If the electric companies can get lines almost anywhere then why can't internet be required to be everywhere?

Commenter's picture

I live in a remote area, and the only electricity available is through a cooperative owned by all the people using it. The standard companies declined to service our area, and this is not uncommon in rural areas. You can't use the idea that if big companies can give us electricity, they can give us internet. Also, and don't quote me on this, but I believe there may be government-imposed taxes involved in getting access in remote areas.

wts's picture

Follow the money!

matt_2058's picture

As wts said, "Follow the money!" This screams corruption. It's creating a situation where a town or state can't regulate itself, and creating a potential monopoly for services IF they can get a corporation to play. Anyone that believes access is not an issue should look at Hughes usage. It equals ALL of ND, SD, MT, & WY!

How's this going to work if the effort to get Internet service classified as a utility succeeds? Utilities are already private, non-profit, public, and mixtures of all those.

From a 2400 modem to 1G service now. Had Verizon, ATT, Comcast, and a local computer shop before the TelCos gave us flat-rate dial-up prices.

A municipality should be able to provide a service, no matter the commercial availability. It's their right as a community to decide what's best for them.

What's the difference between a town providing the service and a town who issues a lease for protected territory? That was the case in a town near our military base. That lease kept prices reasonable and allowed a company to still make a profit.

The only problem I see is the corruption that follows these arrangements. Such as the management contracts instead of creating town-employee positions for the system if it is municipal-owned.