The FTC joins the muni wireless debate

Wow, this was a surprise. Jon Leibowitz, a commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC, not FCC), gave a ringing endorsement yesterday of municipal wireless networks, according to Telecommunications Reports. “It is not only wrong; it is unacceptable” to pass laws barring such networks, he reportedly said. He pointed out that cities do all sorts of things that in theory compete with the private sector, such as operating libraries, schools, and police forces. Laws barring municipal wireless are tantamount to using regulation rather than competition to succeed in broadband, according to Leibowitz.

Leibowitz is a Democrat, which means he’s in the minority at the FTC. So one shouldn’t get too excited about this going anywhere. Still, it’s interesting to think about whether municipal wireless and other broadband restrictions at the behest of incumbents could be reframed as consumer protection discussions.