Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 14, 2016

Net Neutrality Wasn’t the Only Wheeler Hearing Topic

When FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler testified on the Hill yesterday,  the biggest news was the discussion of net neutrality. But there were several other issues in the mix, including municipal broadband.

Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., said there’s been “some concerns of places like Utah and Oregon where there’s been municipal broadband deployed and the projects have failed in areas where there were competitive providers.” He said they’ve put “millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded municipal bonds, property taxes, sale and franchise taxes at risk” and asked Wheeler to clarify his written testimony on the authority of the FCC to pre-empt state laws barring such projects and why he thinks “Washington can have a better view of this” than cities.

“If the citizens of a community want to organize through their local government to say to bring competition in broadband,” they shouldn’t be “inhibited” by incumbents who have been “urging the adoption of legislation that would ban it,” Wheeler said.

In an op-ed yesterday, Blaire Thoreson, a Republican state legislator in North Dakota, opposed federal  pre-emption of these state laws, saying it “turns federalism inside-out” and that it “poses serious local public-debt burdens.”

The hearing also covered the topic of spectrum incentive auctions — the FCC is setting up a process for broadcasters to sell some spectrum for wireless broadband use — and Broadcasting & Cable has more on that as well as joint sales agreements, agreements where one broadcaster sells ads for another.

  • DaveK

    The large incumbent ISPs don’t want to upset the apple cart. They want the laws on the books that would set extreme criteria, or outright ban, for installation of a municipal broadband deployment by cities that want it.

    The FCC should negate that rule at the federal level – and let the ISPs be damned.

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