House Republicans passed legislation Wednesday to keep the Obama administration from overturning state bans on city-owned Internet providers.
The vote is a warning shot at the Federal Communications Commission, which has been mulling taking action against states that restrict municipal broadband service.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, spearheaded the amendment that would bar the FCC from using any funds to prevent states from imposing limits on city broadband. The amendment, which is attached to a fiscal 2015 spending bill, passed mostly along party lines in a 223-200 vote.
Blackburn’s home state of Tennessee would be a likely first target for FCC action.
Chattanooga, Tenn., has rolled out a high-speed fiber Internet network for its residents. The service, called “Gig City,” offers speeds about 50 times faster than the national average for about $70 per month.
A state law, however, is keeping the city from expanding the service to other communities that want it, according to the city’s mayor.
In a blog post last month, 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.”
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.
Republicans argue the federal government shouldn’t preempt state decisions on the issue and that the projects often waste taxpayer money.
What We're Following See More »
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.
Members of Congress are eyeing a one-week spending bill which would keep the government open past the Friday night deadline, giving lawmakers an extra week to iron out a long-term deal to fund the government. Without any action, the government would run out of funding starting at midnight Saturday. “I am optimistic that a final funding package will be completed soon," said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
"President Trump informed Mexican President Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday afternoon that he will not pull the U.S. from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) despite reports earlier in the day that he had considered doing so. ... The three leaders agreed to proceed quickly with renegotiation plans as the initial review process comes to a close."
"A new bill to revive a permanent nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain, Nev., fails to address the concerns of Nevada lawmakers, suggesting the latest attempt may not resolve a 20-year impasse over the issue." The state's congressional delegation "shared their opposition to the nuclear waste policy amendment during a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing focused on the legislation," and promised that Gov. Brian Sandoval would oppose it at every turn. "The new bill aims to finally use some $31 billion that has accumulated in the Nuclear Waste Fund, set aside in 1982 to collect specifically for a permanent repository."