FCC May Kill Tennessee Law Limiting City Internet Service

Republicans don’t want the agency to “usurp” state power.

Job seeker Floxy Gold looks at a computer at the South Los Angeles WorkSource Center on Jan. 13, 2010 in California.
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Brendan Sasso
June 10, 2014, 2:25 p.m.

The Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion may nul­li­fy a Ten­ness­ee law that re­stricts the abil­it­ies of cit­ies to build their own high-speed In­ter­net net­works.

Chat­tanooga, Tenn., has built a mu­ni­cip­al broad­band net­work to con­sumers’ homes, but a state law is pre­vent­ing the city gov­ern­ment from ex­pand­ing the ser­vice to more res­id­ents.

In a blog post Tues­day, FCC Chair­man Tom Wheel­er said broad­band pro­jects like the one in Chat­tanooga are bring­ing new com­pet­i­tion and spur­ring eco­nom­ic growth. He ar­gued that loc­al gov­ern­ments “shouldn’t be stopped by state laws pro­moted by cable and tele­phone com­pan­ies that don’t want that com­pet­i­tion.”

“I be­lieve that it is in the best in­terests of con­sumers and com­pet­i­tion that the FCC ex­er­cises its power to pree­mpt state laws that ban or re­strict com­pet­i­tion from com­munity broad­band,” he said. “Giv­en the op­por­tun­ity, we will do so.”

But the move could face res­ist­ance from Re­pub­lic­an law­makers. El­ev­en GOP sen­at­ors sent a let­ter to Wheel­er last week, warn­ing him not to “usurp” state power.

The sen­at­ors, led by Deb Fisc­her of Neb­raska and Ron John­son of Wis­con­sin, said it is “deeply troub­ling” that the FCC may “force tax­pay­er fun­ded com­pet­i­tion against broad­band pro­viders — against the wishes of states.”

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.

Har­old Feld, the seni­or vice pres­id­ent of con­sumer ad­vocacy group Pub­lic Know­ledge, said Wheel­er will prob­ably not launch a broad ini­ti­at­ive to at­tack state laws around the coun­try. In­stead, the FCC chief will prob­ably wait for groups or in­di­vidu­als to file com­plaints about spe­cif­ic state laws, Feld pre­dicted.

The blog post ap­pears to be an “in­vit­a­tion” for chal­lenges to the Ten­ness­ee law, Feld said.

He ar­gued that cit­ies should be al­lowed to build broad­band net­works to fuel eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment, just like they’re al­lowed to build sports sta­di­ums.

“We need broad­band. We need com­pet­i­tion,” Feld said. “The fact is that loc­al gov­ern­ments ought to have the flex­ib­il­ity to de­cide the ser­vices they need.”

What We're Following See More »
WITH LIVE BLOGGING
Trump Deposition Video Is Online
1 days ago
STAFF PICKS

The video of Donald Trump's deposition in his case against restaurateur Jeffrey Zakarian is now live. Slate's Jim Newell and Josh Voorhees are live-blogging it while they watch.

Source:
SOUND LEVEL AFFECTED
Debate Commission Admits Issues with Trump’s Mic
1 days ago
THE LATEST

The Commission on Presidential Debates put out a statement today that gives credence to Donald Trump's claims that he had a bad microphone on Monday night. "Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall," read the statement in its entirety.

Source:
TRUMP VS. CHEFS
Trump Deposition Video to Be Released
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"A video of Donald Trump testifying under oath about his provocative rhetoric about Mexicans and other Latinos is set to go public" as soon as today. "Trump gave the testimony in June at a law office in Washington in connection with one of two lawsuits he filed last year after prominent chefs reacted to the controversy over his remarks by pulling out of plans to open restaurants at his new D.C. hotel. D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian Holeman said in an order issued Thursday evening that fears the testimony might show up in campaign commercials were no basis to keep the public from seeing the video."

Source:
A CANDIDATE TO BE ‘PROUD’ OF
Chicago Tribune Endorses Gary Johnson
1 days ago
THE LATEST

No matter that his recall of foreign leaders leaves something to be desired, Gary Johnson is the choice of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board. The editors argue that Donald Trump couldn't do the job of president, while hitting Hillary Clinton for "her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Which leaves them with Johnson. "Every American who casts a vote for him is standing for principles," they write, "and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016."

NEVER TRUMP
USA Today Weighs in on Presidential Race for First Time Ever
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

"By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump." That's the message from USA Today editors, who are making the first recommendation on a presidential race in the paper's 34-year history. It's not exactly an endorsement; they make clear that the editorial board "does not have a consensus for a Clinton endorsement." But they state flatly that Donald Trump is, by "unanimous consensus of the editorial board, unfit for the presidency."

Source:
×