More cities join the court battle against FCC muni property preemption ruling

15 December 2018 by Steve Blum
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Riverside pole mount

More than two dozen eastern, midwestern and Texan cities jumped into the court fight against the Federal Communications Commission’s preemption of local ownership of street light and other municipal property planted in the public right of way. The group, led by the City of Austin, filed its paperwork in the federal appeals court headquartered in the District of Columbia.

If I’m counting right, the deadline has now passed for any additional appeals, but there’s always the opportunity to join the fun as an intervenor, as the City of New York did. The Austin case, as well as appeals filed by AT&T and a group of municipal electric companies, are still in the D.C. circuit.

The group led by the City of San Jose also put down a marker in the DC court, asking for permission to participate in the cases there, pointing out that “local governments were consistently at odds with AT&T in the proceeding before the Commission, and do not expect AT&T to share their interests in this litigation”. Ya think?

San Jose’s entry into the DC case is presumably a precautionary measure – the expectation is that all the cases will be bundled together and heard by the tenth circuit federal appellate court, which is based in Denver. That’s where a federal judicial panel decided, by lottery, to send the appeals filed by the San Jose and Seattle-led groups, the City of Huntington Beach, Sprint, Verizon and the Puerto Rico Telephone Company.


A request by San Jose to move the case to San Francisco is still being considered by the Denver judges. Another related matter is under consideration by the federal appeals court based there. All this needs to be sorted out quickly. The FCC’s wireless preemption ruling takes effect in less than a month, on 14 January 2019.

Links to petitions, court documents and background material are here.