States Would Sue to Kill City Internet Service

Mark Lennihan/AP File Photo

A group representing state legislatures is threatening to sue to protect restrictions on city-run Internet networks, claiming the projects often waste taxpayer money.

The National Conference of State Legislatures sent a letter Tuesday to the Federal Communications Commission, saying it would file a constitutional challenge against any federal action to preempt state laws limiting municipal broadband.

"Aside from the constitutional challenges, such an attempt disregards the countless hours of deliberation and votes cast by locally elected lawmakers across the country and supplants it with the impulses of a five-member appointed body in Washington, D.C.," the group wrote.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said he may strike down state laws that restrict the ability of cities to build their own Internet networks. Such laws stifle competition and often leave consumers with slower Internet access, Wheeler claims.

In a blog post last month, Wheeler argued that local governments "shouldn't be stopped by state laws promoted by cable and telephone companies that don't want that competition."

Telecom and cable companies have been lobbying for the state restrictions around the country, arguing that it's not fair for them to compete with government-owned Internet providers. The companies claim the city projects discourage private investment and are often expensive failures.

In the letter to the FCC, the state legislative group said it shares Wheeler's "aspiration that every American have access to broadband," but that it was reasonable for 21 states to enact laws to prevent wasteful projects.

The group urged Wheeler to "heed the principles of federalism" and cautioned him of "the numerous decisions by the United States Supreme Court with regard to the relationship between the state and its political subdivisions."

If the FCC tries to strike down a state law, it would likely point to Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, which gives the agency the authority to promote the deployment of broadband. State laws that restrict municipal broadband could be in violation of that provision, according to the FCC.

House Republicans approved an amendment to an appropriations bill last week to bar the FCC from preempting state broadband laws. The provision, however, is unlikely to pass the Senate.

NEWSLETTER

Get daily news from Route Fifty

Top stories on how innovation is driving smarter government across the country.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.