Both petitions deal with bizarre state laws that rein in muni broadband in favor of regional monopolies operated by the cable and telecom industries.
In Tennessee, the laws prevent Chattanooga’s EPB utility company from offering its broadband service to communities outside of its electric-delivery area, even to communities that are requesting it because they currently have little-to-no broadband access.
Meanwhile in North Carolina, the city of Wilson is allowed to provide power service to six counties but a 2011 state law says it can only offer its gigabit fiber broadband service in its home county.
Comments are now open for the North Carolina petition and the Tennessee petition. Comments can be made by clicking the “Submit a Filing in…” link at the top of each page. This PDF has information on other ways to file comments.
These sorts of laws — ranging from outright bans to regulations that effectively make muni broadband impossible — exist in 20 states, and various state legislatures are always cooking up another way to cater to the cable industry.
FCC Chair Tom Wheeler has said he believes the Commission could use its authority to promote competition to overturn or preempt overly restrictive state laws, but has not indicated a desire to craft a single rule that would invalidate the local laws.
Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn — who has received around $40,000 from cable and telecom campaign donors — introduced legislation that would make it illegal for the FCC to overturn these local laws. And, because Congress hates consumers, it passed.