As federal, state, and local governments take a new look at what companies should have access to public easements and utility rights of way, they really should consider all the angles. Especially since common carrier, public utility, or natural monopoly status may actually be in flux. One factor to consider might be the array of cases where a part of our essential communications infrastructure, specifically Internet Service Providers (ISPs), have sued municipalities that wanted to deliver their own Internet services. Two of the biggest, most self-serving ISPs, the ones that orchestrated an attack on net-neutrality, and thereby the First Amendment, should re-commit to serving the public interest as common carriers.
They should obtain this re-classification in an above board manner. Not by means of the usual political sophistries, that only serve to make our “elected representatives” even less representative. In the meantime, they should not enjoy a presumption of unfettered access to public utility easements or rights of way without the common carrier classification.