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 »
According to a new CNN poll, "37% of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling the presidency, 57% disapprove—virtually identical to his marks in late September. But the percentage who say things in the country are going well has fallen from 53% in August to 46% now."
After initially promising it in August, "President Trump said Monday that he will declare a national emergency next week to address the opioid epidemic." When asked, he also "declined to express confidence in Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), his nominee for drug czar, in the wake of revelations that the lawmaker helped steer legislation making it harder to act against giant drug companies."
In the wake of Sunday's blockbuster 60 Minutes/Washington Post report on opioid regulation and enforcement, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has introduced legislation that "would repeal a 2016 law that hampered the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to regulate opioid distributors it suspects of misconduct." In a statement, McCaskill said: “Media reports indicate that this law has significantly affected the government’s ability to crack down on opioid distributors that are failing to meet their obligations and endangering our communities."
"The United States military said on Monday that it would practice evacuating noncombatant Americans out of South Korea in the event of war and other emergencies, as the two allies began a joint naval exercise amid heightened tensions with North Korea. The evacuation drill, known as Courageous Channel, is scheduled from next Monday through Friday and is aimed at preparing American 'service members and their families to respond to a wide range of crisis management events such as noncombatant evacuation and natural or man-made disasters,' the United States military said in a statement."