FCC imposes common carrier rules on the Internet, preempts muni broadband bans

26 February 2015 by Steve Blum
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The deed is done. Both, actually. The FCC voted this morning to use common carrier rules to regulate Internet infrastructure and service, and to preempt two state bans on municipal broadband in two particular communities.

“The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules”, said chairman Tom Wheeler.

The three democrats on the commission – chairman Tom Wheeler and commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn – voted (and spoke) in favor; the two republican commissioners – Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly – voted against, after reading lengthy and sharply worded dissenting statements.

So far, all we have are commissioner statements and press releases summarising the actions, but largely reiterating previously released talking points. We’re still waiting on the release of the full text of the decisions. I’ll update this post with a link to the texts when available, and post my take on the details as I work my way through it all.

In its first action this morning, the FCC ruled that state restrictions on municipal broadband in Tennessee and North Carolina are superseded by federal law, according to the summary in the commission’s press release

There is a clear conflict, the Order finds, between Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which directs the FCC to take action to remove barriers to broadband investment and competition, and provisions of the Tennessee and North Carolina law that erect barriers to expansion of service into surrounding communities, including unserved and underserved areas.

Wheeler had previously said that the FCC’s action would be specifically tailored to the specific circumstances in Wilson, North Carolina and Chattanooga, Tennessee, and that might be what’s in the actual text, but the language in the press release clearly has a much wider aim.