Statement from Rep. Ruggiero regarding New
England Cable & Telecommunications Association
STATE HOUSE – The following is a statement from House Innovation, Internet & Technology Chairwoman Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), regarding comments from the president of the New England Cable & Telecommunications Association, sent to local media this morning:
As I said, any investment that Cox makes to upgrade internet service is commendable and needed. However, I stand by my contention that it is disingenuous to portray a $20 million investment as “fiber to the premises” for four communities. The math simply does not work.
Let’s look at why billions of federal dollars are here to begin with: because for the past decade, cable companies have not adequately provided the service that our communities deserve and need to participate in the digital economy.
Lack of access to fast, reliable internet service in areas where there is no competition among providers is the biggest complaint that I and many of my legislative colleagues hear from our constituents. Republicans and Democrats in Congress agreed to fund $65 billion for broadband — and the feds are recommending municipal projects.
What we can agree upon is that the community-owned networks of 30 years ago were not successful. Today, there are hundreds of successful public-private partnerships driving municipal broadband projects across this country. Rhode Island is one of only two states that has not been in this game for the past eight years.
Any municipality considering public-private broadband development would have to due diligence and put pencil to paper to see if the project is viable for the community. The municipality may own the infrastructure (like a road or a bridge), but a private company (Cox, Comcast, AT&T, Google Fiber, etc.) provides the internet service. Critically, the infrastructure is “open access,” meaning multiple companies can offer service on it, so customers have choices for internet service. Obviously, you will not be calling Town Hall if you have an internet problem. You would still call your internet provider. And since that provider would likely have competition, they’d be incentivized to respond swiftly to ensure you are happy with their service.
Municipalities, unlike private companies, answer to the taxpayers. Municipalities can also bond over 20-30 years to pay for infrastructure so you build an entire community instead of waiting years for the cable company to show up.
I’m a collaborator and look forward to a meeting with Cox and other stakeholders to discuss future municipal projects. Competition benefits all our constituents.