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US: Circuit court nixes FCC’s effort to overturn North Carolina broadband laws

 |  August 11, 2016

The FCC’s effort to preempt state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that restrict municipal broadband network reach took a hit as a Sixth Circuit panel struck down the 2015 order.

In its ruling, the court said that the FCC’s application of Section 706 of the 1996 Telecom Act is not enough to overturn state law, adding that there’s no federal statute or FCC regulation that “requires the municipalities to expand or otherwise to act in contravention of the preempted state statutory provisions.”

In February 2015, the FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to preempt elements of state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that were designed to restrict municipal providers in these communities from providing broadband service outside of their current serving areas.

In the decision made Tuesday, the court said “This preemption by the FCC of the allocation of power between a state and its subdivisions requires at least a clear statement in the authorizing federal legislation. The FCC relies upon section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 for the authority to preempt in this case, but that statute falls far short of such a clear statement. The preemption order must accordingly be reversed.”

Municipal broadband providers in Tennessee and North Carolina had to abide by laws that limited the territory where they could build out their networks. For example, a Tennessee law passed in 1999 said any municipal electric provider can offer cable services, video services, and Internet services — but only “within its service area.”

Full Content: Fierce Telecom

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