Monday, June 29, 2015

Backed by the telecommunications industry N.C., Tenn. fighting attempts at city-run broadband

The cable and telecommunications industry has been fighting a Federal Communications Commission ruling paving the way for cities to become Internet service providers, "arguing that taxpayer money should not fund potential competitors to private companies," Leticia Miranda reports for ProPublica. "The FCC’s decision came after two towns—City of Wilson in North Carolina and Chattanooga in Tennessee—appealed to the agency to be able to expand their networks."
"The telecom companies have what may seem like an unlikely ally: states. Roughly 20 states have restrictions against municipal broadband," Miranda writes. "And the attorneys general in North Carolina and Tennessee have recently filed lawsuits in an attempt to overrule the FCC and block towns in these states from expanding publicly funded Internet service."

It comes as now surprise that North Carolina and Tennessee have received backing from the telecommunications industry, Miranda writes. "Tennessee has hired one of the country’s largest telecom lobbying and law firms, Wiley Rein, to represent the state in its suit" while North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper "received roughly $35,000 from the telecommunications industry in his 2012 run for office. Only the state’s retail industry gave more."

During the 2014 North Carolina election, the telecommunications industry gave a combined $870,000 to candidates in both parties, while in Tennessee candidates "received nearly $921,000 from AT&T and other industry players in 2014," Miranda writes. "If the court upholds the FCC’s authority to preempt restrictions in North Carolina and Tennessee, it may embolden other cities to file petitions with the agency, according to lawyer Jim Baller, who represents Wilson and the Chattanooga Electric Power Board. He told Miranda, “A victory by the FCC would be a very welcome result for many communities across America." (Read more)

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