FCC's Wheeler wants to eliminate municipal broadband barriers

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FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler continues to tout his competition mantra with a call to challenge more than 20 state laws that prevent or discourage municipalities from building out their own broadband networks.

Two recent moves to ban muni broadband in Kansas and Georgia failed after local public protest. Meanwhile, Minnesota's HF 2695 explicitly bars any community from building a broadband network to serve their needs.

These laws have been driven by local cable operators and telcos like Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) and AT&T (NYSE: T), which have been slow to expand broadband service.

Speaking at this week's NCTA trade show in Los Angeles, Wheeler said that the industry needs to find a way to "knock down public and private barriers to competition and avoid erecting new ones."  

"I understand that the experience with community broadband is mixed, that there have been both successes and failures," Wheeler said. "But if municipal governments—the same ones that granted cable franchises—want to pursue it, they shouldn't be inhibited by state laws. I have said before, that I believe the FCC has the power – and I intend to exercise that power – to preempt state laws that ban competition from community broadband." 

However compelling his intentions are to stop new bans on municipal broadband, Wheeler did not specify how he would address existing laws put in place.

An unnamed FCC representative told Ars Technica the agency does not know how Wheeler will address existing anti municipal broadband laws. "We will be taking up this issue in the technology transitions proceedings, and there should be an announcement about this in the next few weeks."

For more:
- see this blog post
Ars Technica has this article

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