FCC looking to change municipal broadband rules

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The Federal Communications Commission is currently taking public comments on municipal broadband laws that preempt private Internet providers from expanding into cities and towns that already provide citizens with service.

Twenty states have passed such limits, but lately two carriers serving Tennessee and North Carolina respectively have followed suit and are causing the regulatory commission to rethink its rules.

Tom Wheeler, FCC’s chairman, said he intends to use the commission’s authority to preempt the state laws and allow the private ISPs to compete with the municipalities.

The FCC opened two proceedings, one each for North Carolina and Tennessee. Initial comments will be accepted until August 29, and reply comments will be accepted until September 29.

The laws were designed to give municipal governments providing Internet, TV and phone service to residents a protection from private sector companies. However, residents have complained the municipalities do not offer the same level of service and – in some cases – do not meet the FCC’s minimum levels of service for broadband: 4Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream.

From the FCC:

“On July 24, 2014, the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the City of Wilson, North Carolina filed separate petitions asking that the Commission act pursuant to section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to preempt portions of Tennessee and North Carolina state statutes that restrict their ability to provide broadband services.The Electric Power Board is an independent board of the City of Chattanooga that provides electric and broadband service in the Chattanooga area. The City of Wilson provides electric service in six counties in eastern North Carolina and broadband service in Wilson County. Both Petitioners allege that state laws restrict their ability to expand their broadband service offerings to surrounding areas where customers have expressed interest in these services, and they request that the Commission preempt such laws.”

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North Carolina, States, Tennessee
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