Route Fifty reports…
President Biden’s transformative push to expand internet service by treating broadband more like a public utility is on a collision course with laws in 17 states.
And, the potential conflict is raising questions about whether his administration is willing to use federal infrastructure dollars to twist the arms of mostly Republican-run states to change laws they have on the books restricting municipal broadband projects.
The states argue that these types of laws are needed to protect taxpayers and prevent government overreach.
The Biden administration’s view is that one way to lower broadband prices around the country and to expand service into areas where it’s lacking is to get more municipalities and public utilities to begin offering high-speed internet—similar to electricity or water.
Minnesota is one of the states that will be impacted…
Minnesota allows municipalities to acquire or construct telephone exchanges upon obtaining a majority vote in a referendum on that issue. But if an exchange already exists in an area, a municipality can construct a new one only upon obtaining a 65% super-majority of the votes. (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 237.19). Also, Chapter 429 of the Minnesota Statutes, which applies to “Local Improvements, Special Assessments,” states in Minn. Stat. Ann. § 429.021(19) that the council of a municipality is empowered to improve, construct, extend, and maintain facilities for Internet access and other communications purposes if the council finds that: (i) the facilities are necessary to make available Internet access or other communications services that are not and will not be available through other providers or the private market in the reasonably foreseeable future; and (ii) the service to be provided by the facilities will not compete with service provided by private entities. (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 429.021(19))