WASHINGTON, July 28, 2014 - City leaders in Wilson, North Carolina, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, want the Federal Communications Commission to pre-empt state laws that would prevent them from expanding their municipal networks, Broadcasting & Cable reported.
With an existing ban in place in North Carolina, Wilson can only serve its municipal network, Greenlight, to residents of Wilson County –despite having received multiple requests individuals out of its current service area. Municipal leaders said that Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 gives the FCC ample authority to overturn local broadband bans.
According to the Wilson Times, Mayor Bruce Rose said: "The city’s petition seeks to remove the significant operational barriers imposed by the state law so that Greenlight can continue to thrive and serve our community. I have seen Wilson evolve from the World’s greatest tobacco market to North Carolina’s first Gigabit City. We have continuously invested and re-invested in public facilities. Years ago, our city council saw fiber optics as the public infrastructure of the future and absolutely essential to improve the economy, provide jobs and improve our quality-of-life. Greenlight has been a great example of the benefits that community broadband can provide for a city.”
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler confirmed that the petitions from the city leaders had been received, according to Broadcasting and Cable. The agency will review them and comments from incumbent broadband providers. Wheeler has previously urged against state laws prohibiting municipal broadband.
In a Thursday statement on the web site of the Coalition for Local Internet Choice, CEO Joanne Hovis said the debate over community broadband had to be taken nationally given the incumbent broadband providers’ heavy influence over state legislation.
“If a community wants to partner with a local ISP or build its own network to supply services that are needed in the community, should it have the authority to make that decision itself or should incumbents be able to circumvent it with anti-competitive state laws that work in contravention to local needs and choice? We side with Wilson and Chattanooga and believe these decisions should be made locally,” Hovis said. “Fortunately, FCC Chairman Wheeler also agrees with us.”
The FCC also approved Frontier Communications’ acquisition of AT&T’s local wireline, broadband and video operations.
Frontier Communications, which has also received Justice Department approval, now needs approval from the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. The transaction is expected to finalize in the fourth quarter of 2014.
In other news, GigaOM reported that Verizon Wireless will throttle down LTE speeds for intense unlimited-plan users on busy networks starting Oct. 1. Instead, Verizon will prioritize 4G customers who consume data on a gigabyte basis. Verizon said that few subscribers would be affected by this.