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The FCC Says Your City Can Build a Public Internet, Even If Your State Says No | Motherboard

The FCC Says Your City Can Build a Public Internet Even If Your State Says No Motherboard


It's big news for Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Wilson, North Carolina, and it's a signal to other cities in the 21 states that have laws restricting municipal broadband that they can start considering their own networks without worrying about their state laws.

Some quick background: Many cities that are poorly served by existing cable and internet companies decide to build their own networks. It's a particularly attractive option for cities and towns in rural areas, and President Obama and Chairman Wheeler have been pushing it as something cities should consider if they are unhappy with their current service.

But many states have laws restricting the practice, which were mostly lobbied for by telecom companies. Wheeler and Obama have said they'd use a process known as preemption, in which the federal government invalidates part of a state law (at least on a case-by-case basis).

Wheeler decided today that North Carolina's and Tennessee's laws could be preempted. The full commission will vote on his decision later this month.

It's exciting, but the move also doesn't necessarily mean the floodgates are open.

"Federal preemption is a serious matter, so it has to be done on a case-by-case basis," an FCC spokesperson told me. "It's not like you do one and then you can clear them all. There still has to be examination of the facts."

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This feels like a win. 

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