In a blow to municipal broadband projects, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently removed the Federal Communications Commission’s block and upheld the restrictive state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee.
The municipal broadband projects were started to offer rural areas access to more affordable, high-speed Internet service and bridge the digital divide. Because these were increasingly in direct competition with private Internet providers, some states, encouraged by lobbies, sought to restrict their growth. In response, the FCC voted to block those laws in Tennessee and North Carolina.
According to Ars Technica, in order to block the laws, the FCC drew on the authorization it has, per Congress, “to promote competition in local telecommunications markets and to remove barriers that prevent infrastructure investment.” But, according to Ars and which the court also cited, that authorization did not include the preempting of state laws.
The FCC stated that it won’t appeal the court’s decision. Now it’s up to the cities in the case — Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina — if they want to challenge the decision and the states’ laws.