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Muni broadband: dueling white papers

A number of public policy groups on Monday released studies that both praised and scorned the economic viability of municipally funded broadband networks.

It's a hot-button issue that has prompted many states to introduce legislation against these projects, while sparking heated responses from cities looking to build their own wireless or fiber broadband networks.

The New Millennium Research Council released two studies penned by the free-market-leaning group Progress and Freedom Foundation raising "serious questions about the need for and viability" of the recent business plan for the city of Philadelphia to build its own wireless broadband network.

The NMRC is a branch of a public relations and consulting firm called Issue Dynamics, whose clients include, or have included, Verizon Communications, BellSouth, SBC Communications and Qwest, the four Baby Bell phone companies who are vehemently opposed to muni broadband efforts. Its previous studies include advocating a hands-off regulatory approach to voice over Internet Protocol technology and to companies providing broadband lines into homes. The Baby Bells are converting their legacy phone lines to faster IP pipes to begin serving video, faster broadband access and VoIP. Coincidence?

On the other side of the fence, consumer advocacy groups, long acerbic critics against the Bells and cable companies, released a study called "Telco Lies and the Truth about Municipal Broadband Networks". Penned by the Free Press, the Consumer Federation of America, and the Media Access Project, the study includes a section disputing all of the Bells' claims against muni broadband projects.

If you're tracking this issue, you'd better duck. More mud slinging on the way.