FCC petitioned by EPB in Tennessee to overturn municipal broadband ban

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The Electric Power Board (EPB) of Chattanooga, Tenn., a municipal broadband network provider, has filed a petition with the FCC to overturn a state law that prevents it from offering broadband data and video services to residents and businesses that reside outside of its electric service area.

Over its fiber to the home network (FTTH), EPB provides a triple play bundle that includes 1 Gbps data, TV and phone service, but continues to see demand from neighboring communities to access these services.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has made challenging state anti-municipal broadband laws one of his many priorities.

In May, he said he wanted to challenge more than 20 state laws that prevent or discourage municipalities from building out their own broadband networks. Later, Wheeler sought to nullify a Tennessee law that restricts the abilities of cities to build their own high-speed Internet networks.

While the Tennessee petition will likely garner attention on both sides of the municipal broadband movement, an FCC spokesperson told ars technica that "there is no specific timeline for review" of the Tennessee petition and any future ones from other states.

The spokesperson added that: "The FCC has the authority to take broader action through rulemakings--but that is not what is happening here."  

In addition, the FCC received a similar petition from Wilson, N.C., which wants to build a municipal broadband network.

"We have just received the petitions filed by EPB of Chattanooga and the City of Wilson, North Carolina and are reviewing them," Wheeler said in a statement. "We look forward to a full opportunity for comment by all interested parties, and will carefully review the specific legal, factual, and policy issues before us."

The chairman faces an uphill battle, particularly from Republican leaders and incumbent telcos and cable operators, in trying to overturn existing anti-municipal broadband laws.

New legislation filed by Republican Marsha Blackburn last week to forbid the FCC from removing state-level restrictions on municipal broadband networks was approved by the House of Representatives.

For more:
- ars technica has this article
- Tech Crunch has this article

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FCC's Wheeler challenges Tennessee's anti-municipal broadband laws
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