“Neither the Tennessee nor the North Carolina law at issue moves the country any closer to a policy of bandwidth abundance,” Netflix says in comments filed with the FCC. “Both represent retrenchment and a move away from a pro-consumer policy of limitless bandwidth.”
The filing comes as Netflix is feuding with broadband providers about matters like data caps, which limit the amount of video people can consume online, and choppy video streams.
Netflix recently attempted to improve the quality of its streams by forging paid peering deals with four Internet service providers -- Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon and AT&T. Those deals require the video rental company to pay fees to the ISPs in order to connect directly with their servers.
But Netflix has made no secret of the fact that it isn't happy about the peering arrangements. The company obviously hopes that more muni-broadband networks will offer the type of competition that spurs ISPs to make sure their subscribers can stream video, without additional paid peering deals.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is already on record as opposing state limits on muni-broadband. In fact, he vowed earlier this year to try to preempt laws in 20 states that hinder cities from building their own networks.
This summer, two cities -- Wilson, N.C. and Chattanooga, Tenn. -- filed petitions asking the FCC to do just that. Both cities built their own high-speed networks, but laws in their states are hindering other municipalities from doing so.
Consumer advocacy groups are supporting the cities' petitions, arguing that many towns invest in broadband networks because the local telecoms and cable companies didn't offer fast, reasonably priced service. In some cases, incumbents dramatically improved their offerings after the new muni-networks emerged.
On the other hand, cable companies and telecoms -- many of which lobbied for laws banning muni-broadband -- say the FCC shouldn't trump state laws.
For its part, Netflix says that cities hoping to build networks “should not be hamstrung by state laws enacted at the urging of incumbent broadband providers seeking to maintain market dominance.”
The company adds: “State laws that prevent municipalities from providing their citizens faster, cheaper broadband service -- or prevent the extension of that service to citizens in unserved or underserved areas -- harm the entire Internet along with those citizens.”