Mayors Slam Smackdown of Next Century Cities

Next Century Cities, whose members advocate for municipal high-speed broadband buildouts, have weighed in strongly against a court decision preventing the FCC from preempting state laws limiting such buildouts.

The court two weeks ago ruled that the commission could not invalidate laws in Tennessee and North Carolina limiting broadband expansions in Chattanooga and Wilson, N.C.

This week, over 40 mayors from Next Century Cities wrote to the mayors of those cities expressing their support for "self-determination." Chattanooga and Wilson are also Next Century Cities.

"We are concerned about the detrimental impact overturning the Federal Communication Commission’s 2015 ruling will have on community members’ ability to access fast, affordable broadband internet access, and how it will prevent the expansion of your cities’ broadband networks to neighboring underserved communities, as well as what it could mean in communities nationwide," they wrote. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that, as subdivisions of states, it was the state's self-determination the FCC was preempting without a clear mandate from Congress.

“As mayors and municipal leaders, we know that there is no single best solution for supporting connectivity in our communities,” the mayors wrote. “While our paths vary, we are united by our commitment to competition and the right of self-determination for all our communities, free from interference. The recent decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit was a disappointing reminder that the ability of local communities to make our own internet decisions remains at risk.”

Given the court ruling—absent a different decision in a different court—Congress would appear to need to pass legislation specifically giving the FCC the authority to preempt state limits under its Sec. 706 authority to promote advanced telecom if cities want the ability to trump state governments.

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.