South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to retreat from plans to lift state laws that restrict towns from building their own broadband networks.
“I strongly urge the FCC not to interfere with state solutions to state problems,” Haley said in a letter sent to the agency late last week. “As a matter of policy, South Carolinians believe that the private sector can provide higher quality, more sustainable broadband services with lower risk to the taxpayer than local governments.”
Her letter comes as the FCC is considering whether to vacate restrictions on muni-broadband in at least 20 states, including South Carolina. That state's law was passed in 2012, reportedly after lobbying by AT&T and the conservative organization American Legislative Exchange Council.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler officially said last month that he wants the agency to vacate the restrictions. That prospect doesn't seem to have inspired the same over-the-top rhetoric as the White House-backed proposal for new net neutrality rules -- which Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) famously called “Obamacare for the Internet.” But Wheeler's muni-broadband plan has spurred criticism from the two Republicans on the FCC, as well as from various lawmakers and state officials.
Those opponents argue that states have the right to control how local cities and towns manage public money. At least one organization, the National Conference of State Legislatures, has threatened to sue to preserve state restrictions on broadband.
The industry groups US Telecom and NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association also weighed in against lifting the restrictions, arguing that the FCC doesn't have the right to “preempt a state’s regulation of its own political subdivisions.”
But net neutrality proponents, including consumer advocates and Web companies like Netflix, argue that doing away with restrictions on muni-broadband will help boost competition, which will result in better broadband service and lower broadband prices. Advocates have pointed out that the reason many towns built networks in the first place was because the local telecoms and cable companies didn't offer fast, reasonably priced service.
The FCC is expected to vote on the matter on Thursday.