FCC, States Square Off in Court Over Municipal Broadband

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for...

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By John Eggerton

Just days after the Tennessee legislature voted down a municipal broadband expansion bill, the state was squaring off with the FCC in federal court over the issue of municipal broadband buildouts and the state’s ability to limit them.

After FCC chairman Tom Wheeler signaled the FCC had the power to preempt state laws blocking the expansion of municipal broadband, the cities of Wilson, N.C., and Chattanooga, Tenn. petitioned the FCC to do just that. A divided commission complied in March 2015, and Tennessee and North Carolina then filed suit.

The FCC majority in that decision said the agency had the power and the duty to step in when states were limiting broadband buildouts. The commission confirmed it did not have the power to overturn state laws preventing municipal broadband buildouts altogether, but if those states allows such networks, the FCC can pre-empt laws that would limit them.

Wheeler has tabbed those laws as the handiwork of incumbent Internet service providers trying to prevent competition.

The Sixth Circuit federal appeals court—in Cincinnati—heard oral argument Thursday in that challenge by the states.

According to Berin Szoka of TechFreedom, who was at the argument, the judges asked tough questions of both sides.

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About Mark Milliman

Mark Milliman is a Principal Consultant at Inphotonics Research driving the adoption and assisting local governments to plan, build, operate, and lease access open-access municipal broadband networks. Additionally, he works with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to increase the value of their intellectual capital through the creation of strategic product plans and execution of innovative marketing strategies. With more than 22 years of experience in the telecommunications industry that began at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Mark has built fiber, cable, and wireless networks around the world to deliver voice, video, and data services. His thorough knowledge of all aspects of service delivery from content creation to the design, operation, and management of the network is utilized by carriers and equipment manufacturers. Mark conceived and developed one of the industry's first multi-service provisioning platform and is multiple patent holder. He is active in the IEEE as a senior member. Mark received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.
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