When FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced his net neutrality plans today, he also said he wants to examine state laws that prohibit or restrict the ability of cities and towns to offer Internet service.
As we’ve written, ISP lobby groups have won restrictions on municipal broadband in 20 states, and they are trying to push through more such laws. Lobbyists and their lawmaker friends have been emboldened by a 2004 US Supreme Court decision that said the Telecommunications Act “allows states to prevent municipalities from providing telecommunications services,” according to a summary of the case.But the situation isn’t as clear-cut as that, it may turn out. Wheeler believes a dissent written by a judge at the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit gave the FCC some room to step between states and municipalities on this issue.
“The Commission will look for opportunities to enhance Internet access competition,” Wheeler said in a statement. “One obvious candidate for close examination was raised in Judge Silberman’s separate opinion, namely legal restrictions on the ability of cities and towns to offer broadband services to consumers in their communities.”

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