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FCC Sets Preemption Pleading Cycle

The FCC has set a pleading cycle for requests by two cities that it preempt state statutes limiting their provision of broadband service.

Expect cable operators to register their unhappiness with the move, which could mean more tax dollars going to subsidize the broadband competition.

The Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, Tenn., and the City of Wilson, N.C., last week petitioned the FCC to take the move, one FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, has signaled he wanted to do so. The FCC has given the public and stakeholders until Aug. 29 to weigh in, with reply comments due Sept. 29.

The petitioners are alleging that "state laws restrict their ability to expand their broadband service offerings to surrounding areas where customers have expressed interest in these services," said the FCC in announcing the new dockets (14-115 and 14-116). "And they request that the Commission preempt such laws."

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has argued that such state limits were pushed through by ISP's trying to foreclose competition. Those ISPs argue the government should not be subsidizing their competitors, and point to examples of cities who failed at building out networks and left taxpayers to pay for those miscalculations. Then there is the ISPs' point about not being able to make a business case for pricing their service competitively with a subsidized entrant.