Archive for September, 2008

Eminent Domain and Net Neutrality Issues

Friday, September 12th, 2008

In a Slate column (“On the Media  Obama vs. McCain on media policy 2008,”

Much of the fiber optics network as well as microwave towers exist on right-of-way leased by power companies, pipelines, and railroads, which they obtained through the use of or threat of eminent domain (see “Broadband Regulatory Issues: Access to Public Utility Right-of-Way and Division of Revenues” for the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, CSTB Broadband Study on “The Last Mile,” June 2000. This is a dated study, but it provides background for this claim).  Other parts of the network are on rights-of-way secured by telephone companies.  These rights-of-way are largely inherited from the old AT&T network, parts of which date back to the early 20th century.  Cable networks, at least the wired portions, exist through the FCC regulatory system that requires telephone companies to lease space to cable companies at rates set by FCC formula.  Plus every state has regulatory commissions with their own rules for the parts of the network that are considered to be intrastate.  There are local franchise agreements that grant benefits, usually in exchange for payments to the local government entity.  Often these contracts confer monopoly status upon the carrier.

So it’s not a question of government intervention vs. non-intervention.  It is, or it should be, a question of how best to protect the public interest, given that large corporate entities have been granted economic rights by all levels of government.

More to come at a later date.