This month, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) named Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) its January Porker of the Month for his fatuous proposal that would interfere with the states’ constitutional rights to restrict or prohibit municipalities from building or expanding taxpayer-funded broadband networks. If enacted, Sen. Booker’s Community Broadband Act would give the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) even more control over Internet service providers and, ultimately, consumers. The senator’s bill parrots the recommendations made in a January 2015 White House report, “Community-Based Broadband Solution: The Benefits of Competition and Choice for Community Development and Highspeed Internet Access.” The report is the latest chapter of “Obama Knows Best,” the growing tome about how everything should be controlled by the federal government. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is also supportive of the senator’s concept.
“Both Sen. Booker and President Obama should stop trying to interfere with the states’ rights to decide whether municipalities can build broadband systems”
Currently, 20 states have enacted laws to protect local governments from making costly mistakes by building networks that they are ill-equipped to either manage or maintain. The restrictions range from requiring that municipal communications services must be both mandated by a referendum and demonstrate that it can be self-sustaining, to complete prohibitions on cities and towns selling telecommunications services if a private sector company already provides such services. In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled in Nixon v. Missouri Municipal League that states may enact restrictions on the ability of local governments to provide telecommunications services. Of note, the FCC then argued that states should have that power.
In addition to legal and constitutional questions surrounding Sen. Booker’s legislation, government-owned broadband networks have been a financial drain on local taxpayers, lack long-term resources for maintenance and upgrades, and compete unfairly with existing providers, as CAGW set forth in “Telecom Unplugged: Ushering in a New Digital Era.” In a June 19, 2014 Wall Street Journal column, CAGW President Tom Schatz and Utah Taxpayer Alliance Vice President Royce Van Tassell highlighted the problems encountered by one such initiative, the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency, whose inadequate business plan and lack of subscribers left the agency with negative net assets of $146 million.
“Both Sen. Booker and President Obama should stop trying to interfere with the states’ rights to decide whether municipalities can build broadband systems,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz. “The President and his allies in Congress do not know best on this matter. Wrapping an unsuccessful business model into a ‘community development’ scheme is another example of overreach by the centralists in Washington, D.C. and would trample the rights of states and their taxpayers.”
For his attempt to expand the power of the federal government and the FCC, override the constitutional prerogative of states to decide what is best for their local governments, and shove failed, expensive government-owned telecommunications systems onto unsuspecting taxpayers, CAGW names Sen. Cory Booker its January Porker of the Month.