Although President Obama didn’t lock arms with heads of states in France on Sunday in a unity march, today he locked private versus public sector horns with CTIA’s President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker after he said he will ask the Federal Communications Commission to assist in repealing laws in 19 states that prevent local governments from creating municipal internet services.
In a visit to Cedar Falls, Iowa, Obama said that governments should help expand access to high speed broadband internet. He said that that he visited their community because it has long had its own broadband network.
“That was a really smart thing you guys did,” he told the Cedar Falls crowd.
“I believe that a community has the right to make its own choice, and to provide its own broadband if it wants to,” he said in seeking to repeal laws in other states.
He also said that the federal government would provide financial and technical assistance to local governments that want to improve internet services for their citizens.
Baker, a former FCC Commissioner cried foul.
She said the President’s focus on using taxpayer money to compete with commercial providers, which are pouring billions in private capital every year into U.S. broadband infrastructure and jobs, is the wrong path forward.
“The wireless industry has invested $100 billion in the last four years alone. In such a vigorously competitive market, government-owned networks would only serve to chill private sector investment, tilt the competitive playing field, and harm consumers, Baker said in a statement issued shortly after Obama’s comments.
“While the President’s stated goal is robust, high-speed broadband for all Americans, his administration’s own policies are at odds with that objective. It was only two months ago when the President urged the FCC to apply antiquated, public-utility regulations to the dynamic mobile ecosystem, which if enacted, would inhibit future capital investment and hinder the deployment of new wireless broadband infrastructure and consumer offerings. Consumers would be further harmed by additional fees and taxes on broadband services under Title II,” she said.
In addition to Baker, key industry leaders have the FCC as a common thread in their careers. President and CEO of PCIA- The Wireless Infrastructure Association Jonathan Adelstein was a former FCC Commissioner. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler used to serve as CTIA’s CEO.