Local utilities want more autonomy on network development
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a statement issued Feb. 2, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler positioned himself as a defender of both small business and government regulation.
The issue being considered by the FCC is a proposed order on community broadband, which has been brought to the FCC’s attention by two community broadband providers – the city of Wilson, N.C., and the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, Tenn.
Officials from Wilson and the public utility are petitioning the FCC to nullify state laws that restrict development of broadband networks. The petitioners claim that they are best suited to determine how to expand their networks and are hamstrung by archaic state regulations.
Wheeler came out strongly for the petitioners: “Communities across the nation know that access to robust broadband is key to their economic future – and the future of their citizens. Many communities have found that existing private-sector broadband deployment or investment fails to meet their needs.”
“They should be able to make their own decisions about building the networks they need to thrive,” Wheeler continued. “After looking carefully at petitions by two community broadband providers asking the FCC to pre-empt provisions of state laws preventing expansion of their very successful networks, I recommend approval by the Commission so that these two forward-thinking cities can serve the many citizens clamoring for a better broadband future.”
Wheeler’s posture has put him in the unique position of advocating deregulation, a cause championed by Republicans, who currently control the House and Senate majorities, while using an unelected commission to override state laws, a scenario that many politicians and voters oppose.
The FCC is due to reach a decision on the community broadband petitions out of Wilson and Chattanooga later this month.