Court's Municipal Broadband Decision Was About Lack of FCC Authority
NEWS ANALYSIS: The Federal Communications Commission was slapped down in its effort to preempt state laws about municipal broadband, but this case wasn't about whether wide broadband access is a good idea.When the Federal Communications Commission issued its rule preempting state laws that limited local governments' authority to build broadband networks, the commissioners' comments were all about why broadband deployment is good for all concerned. Now that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down that attempt, the complaints from those same commissioners are a refrain on the same theme. Wide access to broadband Internet access is a valuable goal, they're saying. What the three commissioners on the losing side are ignoring, perhaps intentionally, is that the challenges to the FCC preemption aren't about broadband. More to the point, the court's decision is about the relationship between the individual states and political subdivisions within them. The court ruled that the Constitution doesn't give the FCC the right to interfere in those relationships. But to read the moaning and groaning about the decision, you'd never know that. The complainers are making statements about how the court is coming out against broadband. It's not.
In the case of the FCC preemption effort, the two states involved, North Carolina and Tennessee, had laws that limit what their cities can do with municipal services. In both cases, the state laws prevented cities from extending city services beyond the borders of the municipalities involved. In one case the law in question focused more on electrical services and broadband was an extension of the law.