City-funded broadband just lost a big fight in court

A U.S. appeals court has struck down an FCC decision meant to protect municipal networks

Some city-funded broadband networks may be in trouble after a U.S. appeals court struck down Federal Communications Commission rules that prohibited states from restricting those projects.

The FCC has no authority from Congress to prohibit state laws that limit municipal funding of broadband networks, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said in a decision released Wednesday.

In February 2015, the FCC voted to overturn laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that limited the expansion of existing municipal broadband networks. Many incumbent broadband providers have opposed municipal funding of competing networks and pushed for state laws prohibiting them. In some cases, those city networks are faster and cheaper than what the incumbents are selling.

The FCC cannot change state law without specific authority from Congress, Judge John Rogers wrote in Wednesday's decision.

The FCC has argued that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 authorities the agency to promote broadband deployment and that the 2015 vote does just that. 

Wednesday's decision "appears to halt the promise of jobs, investment, and opportunity that community broadband has provided in Tennessee and North Carolina," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in an emailed statement. "I believe the commission’s decision to champion municipal efforts highlighted the benefits of competition and the need of communities to take their broadband futures in their own hands."

In the last year and a half, more than 50 U.S. municipalities have taken steps to build their own broadband networks, Wheeler wrote. "The efforts of communities wanting better broadband should not be thwarted by the political power of those who, by protecting their monopoly, have failed to deliver acceptable service at an acceptable price."

The free-market think tank TechFreedom applauded the court's decision. "It took enormous chutzpah for the FCC to try to preempt state broadband laws, so this is a well-deserved rebuke for an agency run amuck," Berin Szóka, TechFreedom's president, said by email.

The court case has been a costly distraction from efforts to make broadband deployment easier, Szóka said.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?