Cities Ask FCC to Preempt State Broadband Laws

It looks like the FCC has its vehicle for preempting state laws restricting municipal broadband, at least in two cities.

The FCC has received requests from Chattanooga and Wilson, N.C., to preempt state laws restricting their ability to provide broadband service.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has signaled that he wants to use the FCC's power to preempt what he has said are efforts by incumbent ISPs to block municipal broadband via advocating for those restrictive state laws.

"We have just received the petitions filed by EPB of Chattanooga and the City of Wilson, North Carolina and are reviewing them," said Wheeler in a statement. "We look forward to a full opportunity for comment by all interested parties, and will carefully review the specific legal, factual, and policy issues before us.”

The FCC is getting pushback from congressional Republicans, who have warned against the preemption. Currently a House-passed FCC appropriations bill includes an amendment from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) that blocks the funding of any preemption by the FCC of state laws in 20 states where they currently exist, including North Carolina and Tennessee.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.