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N.C. Sues FCC Over State Broadband Preemption

North Carolina attorney general Roy Cooper has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the FCC's decision to preempt state law limiting a municipal broadband buildout.

According to a copy of the suit, which was filed in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Cooper says the FCC unlawfully inserted itself between the state and its cities and that to do so was unconstitutional, exceeded the FCC's authority, was arbitrary and capricious and otherwise illegal.

The FCC voted Feb. 26 along party lines (a 3-2 Democratic majority) to preempt state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that limit expansion of municipal broadband, citing its authority under the Sec. 706 mandate to insure advance telecommunications services are being deployed in a reasonable and timely manner.

The FCC said it can't preempt laws preventing muni buildouts, but signaled it can, and likely will, preempt ones limiting already authorized builds, though on a case-by-case basis.

The order preempts geographic limitations on the expansion of municipal broadband systems in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Wilson, N.C., though it does not compel any action on either. The decision does not affect laws in other states, but signals how the FCC might act on similar petitions.

John Eggerton
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.