Focus Areas:    Administrative Law | Broadband | FCC | Preemption | Telecom | Telecom Act

Comments of ICLE and TechFreedom, In the Matter of NC & TN Petitions for Preemption of State Laws Restricting Municipal Broadband Networks, FCC

Comments of TechFreedom and the International Center for Law & Economics, In the Matter of City of Wilson, N. Carolina Petition for Preemption of N. Carolina Gen. Statute Sections 160a-340 et Seq., 30 F.C.C. Rcd. 2408 (2015)

Summary

“On July 24th, 2014, the Electric Power Board (EPB) of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the City of Wilson, north Carolina, filed separate petitions with the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”), each asking the FCC to use the authority the FCC has claimed under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to preempt state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina restricting the deployment of municipally-owned broadband networks. Just four days later,the Commission released a Public Notice establishing the current comment cycle, giving interested parties scantly over a month’s time to review and respond to the complex and voluminous petitions, despite the litany of other important and intricate issues currently before the FCC.

TechFreedom, ICLE, and seven other organizations – many of which are small operations with limited resources – filed a request seeking to have the comment deadline in this proceeding extended, but this request was summarily denied. Thus, due to time and resource constraints, the following comments will not address each and every point raised by the two petitions. Rather, these comments will address a few discrete points – including (1) the legal authority for Federal preemption in this case, and (2) the policy implications raised by the two petitions – before offering some general advice to the Commission: Deny the petitions of EPB and Wilson; issue a Notice of Inquiry to gather further data on the efficacy of government-run broadband networks; and, in the meantime, focus on broadband deployment initiatives that have gathered more consensus (e.g., promoting “Dig Once” policies, extending pole-attachment rights to broadband-only providers, and encouraging intermodal facilities-based competition, such as by maximizing the reallocation of spectrum for wireless broadband). We also note the unique dangers posed by increasing control over broadband, particularly in terms of censorship, surveillance, and other kinds of privacy invasions.”

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