Republican lawmakers are vowing to block moves by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that would empower cities to circumvent state laws so that they can create alternatives to commercial Internet providers, The Washington Post
Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Wilson, North Carolina, are restrained by state law from offering high-speed Internet access. Tennessee, for example, prohibits cities from deploying high-capacity networks beyond limited areas. In North Carolina, publicly provided broadband may not undercut private carrier prices.
President Barack Obama has urged the FCC to tackle state barriers.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler could ask commissioners to vote as early as Feb. 26 to override state laws that inhibit broadband deployment. He would argue that Section 706 of the Communications Act gives the commission that power, the Post reported.
Such a ruling would be limited to the two states. Down the line, however, similar legal reasoning could serve as a basis for action in some 20 other states with comparable limits.
Any FCC decision that determines states may not inhibit localities in making available high-speed Internet access would impact major carriers like Comcast and Verizon.
According to FCC studies, a majority of Americans have access to only one or two major Internet providers, and some 55 million Americans — roughly 17 percent of the country — lack adequate connection speeds, defined as 25 megabits per second or more, the Post reported.
Republicans and conservative-leaning FCC commissioners want to block the commission from treating broadband Internet access like a telecommunications service, according to The New York Times
. Wheeler's critics maintain that private rather than government investment is the best way to encourage high-speed broadband.
They also argue that Section 706 does not empower the agency to intervene in the relationship between states and cities.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, R-South Dakota, and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Michigan, have introduced legislation to limit the FCC's ability to wield Section 706
as a regulatory tool for broadband.
Obama has vowed to veto the legislation, according to the Times.
Conservatives worry that unless proscribed, the FCC could invoke Section 706 to regulate just about any aspect of the Internet including how customers use services like Google, the Post reported.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.