The Future of Broadband

Feds Nullify State Laws on City Internet

Net neutrality may get more attention, but the FCC is also making a major push for community Internet service—a priority for Obama.

Laying down fiber-optic cable in Louisville, CO. 
National Journal
Feb. 26, 2015, 6:21 a.m.

The Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion voted Thursday to over­turn laws in Ten­ness­ee and North Car­o­lina that re­strict the abil­ity of loc­al gov­ern­ment to provide In­ter­net ser­vice to their own res­id­ents.

Chat­tanooga, Tenn., and Wilson, N.C., first filed pe­ti­tions last year ask­ing the FCC to over­turn their states’ laws on loc­al broad­band. Both cit­ies are cur­rently provid­ing In­ter­net ser­vice, but their state gov­ern­ments had pre­ven­ted them from ex­pand­ing the pro­jects to more res­id­ents. Last month, Pres­id­ent Obama urged the FCC to grant the pe­ti­tions as part of his push to ex­pand ac­cess to high-speed In­ter­net.

Tele­com and cable com­pan­ies have been lob­by­ing for the state laws around the coun­try, ar­guing that it’s not fair for them to have to com­pete with gov­ern­ment-owned In­ter­net pro­viders. The com­pan­ies con­tend that the city pro­jects dis­cour­age private in­vest­ment and are of­ten ex­pens­ive fail­ures.

But FCC Chair­man Tom Wheel­er ar­gued that if cit­ies want to in­vest their own money to en­sure that homes and busi­nesses have ac­cess to high-speed In­ter­net, then state laws shouldn’t stand in their way.

“The bot­tom line of these mat­ters is that some states have cre­ated thick­ets of red tape to lim­it com­pet­i­tion,” Wheel­er said Thursday. “What we’re do­ing today is cut­ting away that red tape, con­sist­ent with Con­gress’s in­struc­tion to ‘en­cour­age the de­vel­op­ment of broad­band’ and to ‘pro­mote com­pet­i­tion.’”

The is­sue is one of the most con­tro­ver­sial that the FCC will vote on this year. But it was largely over­shad­owed Thursday by the even more ex­plos­ive de­bate over net-neut­ral­ity reg­u­la­tions.

Re­pub­lic­ans fiercely op­pose both the net-neut­ral­ity rules and the over­turn­ing of state broad­band laws, and both ac­tions are likely to prompt leg­al chal­lenges.

The two Re­pub­lic­ans on the five-mem­ber FCC, Ajit Pai and Mi­chael O’Ri­elly, voted against nul­li­fy­ing the state laws. They ar­gued that states should be free to set their own policies — in­clud­ing re­stric­tions on loc­al gov­ern­ments.

The FCC’s ac­tion to boost loc­al In­ter­net “dis­rupts the bal­ance of power between the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and state gov­ern­ments that lies at the core of our con­sti­tu­tion­al sys­tem of gov­ern­ment,” Pai said.

The Re­pub­lic­ans said they aren’t ne­ces­sar­ily op­posed to all mu­ni­cip­al broad­band pro­jects, but that states should be able to im­pose re­stric­tions on cit­ies to pro­tect tax­pay­er money. They ac­know­ledged that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment can pree­mpt state laws, but ar­gued that Con­gress has not giv­en the FCC clear au­thor­ity to act against state broad­band laws.

By grant­ing the pe­ti­tions, the FCC struck down the laws in those two states, but oth­er state re­stric­tions re­main in ef­fect. Oth­er cit­ies look­ing to build or ex­pand their own In­ter­net pro­jects may soon file pe­ti­tions with the com­mis­sion.

Kaveh Waddell contributed to this article.
What We're Following See More »
AVOIDS SHUTDOWN WITH A FEW HOURS TO SPARE
Trump Signs Border Deal
1 weeks ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump signed a sweeping spending bill Friday afternoon, averting another partial government shutdown. The action came after Trump had declared a national emergency in a move designed to circumvent Congress and build additional barriers at the southern border, where he said the United States faces 'an invasion of our country.'"

Source:
REDIRECTS $8 BILLION
Trump Declares National Emergency
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"President Donald Trump on Friday declared a state of emergency on the southern border and immediately direct $8 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier. The move — which is sure to invite vigorous legal challenges from activists and government officials — comes after Trump failed to get the $5.7 billion he was seeking from lawmakers. Instead, Trump agreed to sign a deal that included just $1.375 for border security."

Source:
COULD SOW DIVISION AMONG REPUBLICANS
House Will Condemn Emergency Declaration
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"House Democrats are gearing up to pass a joint resolution disapproving of President Trump’s emergency declaration to build his U.S.-Mexico border wall, a move that will force Senate Republicans to vote on a contentious issue that divides their party. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Thursday evening in an interview with The Washington Post that the House would take up the resolution in the coming days or weeks. The measure is expected to easily clear the Democratic-led House, and because it would be privileged, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be forced to put the resolution to a vote that he could lose."

Source:
MILITARY CONSTRUCTION, DRUG FORFEITURE FUND
Where Will the Emergency Money Come From?
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"ABC News has learned the president plans to announce on Friday his intention to spend about $8 billion on the border wall with a mix of spending from Congressional appropriations approved Thursday night, executive action and an emergency declaration. A senior White House official familiar with the plan told ABC News that $1.375 billion would come from the spending bill Congress passed Thursday; $600 million would come from the Treasury Department's drug forfeiture fund; $2.5 billion would come from the Pentagon's drug interdiction program; and through an emergency declaration: $3.5 billion from the Pentagon's military construction budget."

Source:
TRUMP SAYS HE WILL SIGN
House Passes Funding Deal
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"The House passed a massive border and budget bill that would avert a shutdown and keep the government funded through the end of September. The Senate passed the measure earlier Thursday. The bill provides $1.375 billion for fences, far short of the $5.7 billion President Trump had demanded to fund steel walls. But the president says he will sign the legislation, and instead seek to fund his border wall by declaring a national emergency."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login