FCC Opens Public Comments On State Laws Banning Municipal Broadband Operations

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said last month that, given the chance, he would take the opportunity to closely examine state laws that prevent communities from owning their own broadband. Now with two complaints filed with the FCC from North Carolina and Kentucky, the FCC has decided to ask the public what it should do with a public comment period.

Around twenty U.S. states have passed laws that either prohibit or limit cities and towns from building and operating their own broadband networks. Critics of these laws say that state lawmakers are in the pockets of lobbyists and trade groups that work for the telecommunications industry.

"On July 24, 2014, the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the City of Wilson, North Carolina filed separate petitions asking that the Commission act pursuant to section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to preempt portions of Tennessee and North Carolina state statutes that restrict their ability to provide broadband services," the FCC said today. "The Electric Power Board is an independent board of the City of Chattanooga that provides electric and broadband service in the Chattanooga area. The City of Wilson provides electric service in six counties in eastern North Carolina and broadband service in Wilson County. Both Petitioners allege that state laws restrict their ability to expand their broadband service offerings to surrounding areas where customers have expressed interest in these services, and they request that the Commission preempt such laws."

The FCC opened two proceedings – one for a complaint in North Carolina and another for a complaint in Tennessee. Initial comments will be accepted until August 29, and reply comments will be accepted until September 29.

You can read the FCC's statement on this important issue here (PDF).

Source: Ars Technica

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