A group representing state legislatures is threatening to sue to protect restrictions on city-run Internet networks, claiming the projects often waste taxpayer money.
The National Conference of State Legislatures sent a letter Tuesday to the Federal Communications Commission, saying it would file a constitutional challenge against any federal action to preempt state laws limiting municipal broadband.
“Aside from the constitutional challenges, such an attempt disregards the countless hours of deliberation and votes cast by locally elected lawmakers across the country and supplants it with the impulses of a five-member appointed body in Washington, D.C.,” the group wrote.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said he may strike down state laws that restrict the ability of cities to build their own Internet networks. Such laws stifle competition and often leave consumers with slower Internet access, Wheeler claims.
In a blog post last month, Wheeler argued that local governments “shouldn’t be stopped by state laws promoted by cable and telephone companies that don’t want that competition.”
Telecom and cable companies have been lobbying for the state restrictions around the country, arguing that it’s not fair for them to compete with government-owned Internet providers. The companies claim the city projects discourage private investment and are often expensive failures.
In the letter to the FCC, the state legislative group said it shares Wheeler’s “aspiration that every American have access to broadband,” but that it was reasonable for 21 states to enact laws to prevent wasteful projects.
The group urged Wheeler to “heed the principles of federalism” and cautioned him of “the numerous decisions by the United States Supreme Court with regard to the relationship between the state and its political subdivisions.”
If the FCC tries to strike down a state law, it would likely point to Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, which gives the agency the authority to promote the deployment of broadband. State laws that restrict municipal broadband could be in violation of that provision, according to the FCC.
House Republicans approved an amendment to an appropriations bill last week to bar the FCC from preempting state broadband laws. The provision, however, is unlikely to pass the Senate.
What We're Following See More »
The House Intelligence Committee voted to release the November 14 testimony of Glenn Simpson, the man at Fusion GPS who oversaw the creation of the now infamous Trump-Russia dossier. Simpson's testimony includes a number of startling claims, including that Russia infiltrated conservative political groups prior to the election, and that Trump had "long time associations" with the Italian Mafia," and that he "gradually during the nineties became associated with Russian mafia figures." Simpson also testified that Trump called off a post-election meeting with Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank and a longtime member of the NRA, currently under investigation by the FBI for money laundering. Simpson said that the discoveries were so alarming that he felt compelled to go to the authorities. The full text of the transcript can be read here.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he has the votes to pass a short-term spending bill tonight, but "Senate Democrats said they're confident they have the votes to block the stop-gap spending bill that the House is taking up, according to two Democratic senators and a senior party aide. And top Senate Republicans are openly worried about the situation as they struggle to keep their own members in the fold."
The bipartisan legislation, known as the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act, means taxpayers will "no longer foot the bill" for sexual harassment settlements involving members of Congress." The legislation "would require members to pay such settlements themselves." It also reforms the "cumbersome and degrading" complaint process by giving victims "more rights and resources," and by simplifying and clarifying the complaint process. The legislation is the first major transformation of the sexual harassment complaint system since it was created in 1995.
"The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency." Investigators have focused on Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank "who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA." The solicitation or use of foreign funds is illegal in U.S. elections under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by either lobbying groups or political campaigns. The NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections.