FCC Chief To Propose Nixing Muni-Broadband Restrictions

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said on Monday that he will propose invalidating state restrictions on municipal broadband networks.

“Many communities have found that existing private-sector broadband deployment or investment fails to meet their needs,” he said today in a statement. “They should be able to make their own decisions about building the networks they need to thrive.”

Currently, at least 19 states have laws curbing muni-broadband, many of which were passed as a result of lobbying efforts by telecoms and cable companies.

Two cities in states that restrict muni-broadband -- Wilson, N.C. and Chattanooga, Tenn. -- recently petitioned the FCC to invalidate the laws.

Wheeler said on Monday that he has circulated an order granting the petitions brought by those “two forward-thinking cities.”

Wilson and Chattanooga both built their own fiber-optic networks, which offered faster service than what was available from the incumbents. Chattanooga's network offers speeds of 1 Gbps, making it one of the fastest in the country. But laws on North Carolina and Louisiana have hindered other cities from creating their own networks.

Wheeler's move comes almost three weeks after the White House called for an end to laws that restrict cities from creating their own broadband networks.

The FCC said that the proposed order will find that the state restrictions “barriers to broadband investment and competition and that preemption is warranted.”

The FCC will vote on the order at its meeting later this month.

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