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FCC Oversteps, Shot Down in 6th Circuit

By Daniel Savickas | August 11, 2016

Courts have finally intervened on an instance of Federal Communications Commission executive overreach.

The 6th Circuit Federal Court issued a repudiation of the FCC’s order that rolled back laws in both Tennessee and North Carolina that restricted the development of municipal broadband networks in two of the states’ cities.

The following can be attributed to the Executive Director of Digital Liberty, Katie McAuliffe:

“The FCC’s municipal broadband order is just the latest in a series of regulations that makes it the poster child for executive overreach. The Court’s decision is important in stopping this continued overreach and gives the private sector, and state governments a chance to breathe, so they can improve broadband access as they see fit.”

The FCC based its intrusion into state law on their mandate to promote competitive broadband. However, the court rightly ruled that the FCC's involvement only applies to private broadband competition and does not give it the authority to intervene in state laws governing municipal governments.

Public broadband is funded through taxpayer dollars. Whether a citizen chooses to use the public broadband network or not, they will still pay for it. If a citizen does chose to use the public network, they pay for it twice: First through taxes, then through subscription fees.

This decision should shift the FCC’s focus away from infringing on the sovereignty of states, and to locations that are actually are unserved or underserved by any broadband connection. Chattanooga, Tennessee and Williston, North Carolina do not fit this description, and do not warrant FCC involvement to spur competition.  

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