FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly gave a speech to the Media Institute in which he falsely claimed that municipal fiber networks (which provide competitive services that are cheaper and better than those provided by commercial telcoms monopolies, and which are a major target for dark-money billionaire smear campaigns) have onerous terms of service that allow them to censor users' speech, and that they use this power to suppress right-wing political views.
This is categorically untrue, and can be readily verified by reading the terms of service of the municipal broadband providers O’Rielly cited.
“Municipalities such as Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Wilson, North Carolina, have been notorious for their use of speech codes in the terms of service of state-owned networks, prohibiting users from transmitting content that falls into amorphous categories like 'hateful' or “threatening,” O’Rielly claimed.
Chattanooga, Tennessee, is home to EPB Broadband, which is owned and operated by the city’s power utility. A recent Consumer Reports survey of 176,000 Americans found the ISP was rated the highest in the country in terms of speed, value, and reliability.
A perusal of the EPB terms of service shows no language that varies in any substantive way from the usual restraints on bad behavior and hate speech imposed by most ISPs country wide.
The closest O’Rielly gets to supporting evidence appears to be a 2015 white paper written by Professor Enrique Armijo for the ISP-funded Free State Foundation. That paper similarly alleges that standard telecom sector language intended to police “threatening, abusive or hateful” language somehow implies community-run ISPs are more likely to curtail user speech.
FCC Falsely Claims Community Broadband an 'Ominous Threat to The First Amendment' [Karl Bode/Motherboard]
(Image: Gage Skidmore, CC-BY-SA)
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