Cable And Telecom Firms Score A Huge Win In Their War To Kill Municipal Broadband

by Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times

Tony Webster/Flickr

Tony Webster/Flickr

Cable and telecom companies have made billions by selling mediocre Internet service to American customers who don’t have anywhere else to go.

The firms, which are monopolies or nearly so in many local communities, aren’t happy about municipalities that have taken matters into their own hands by launching their own broadband services. That’s especially so because the public systems typically are faster and cheaper than the crummy connections served up by the commercial providers. So they’ve worked hard to get laws passed interfering with this form of competition.

They just chalked up their biggest victory yet — in a courtroom, not a legislative chamber. The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Wednesday shut down an effort by the Federal Communications Commission to foster the spread of municipal broadband. The FCC, arguing that the public interest was served by more competition in the broadband market, had tried to overturn state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina blocking the creation or expansion of municipal systems.

A three-judge appellate panel rejected the commission’s argument that federal law preempted the states’ ability to place limits on public broadband. In other words, no dice.

What’s intriguing about the ruling is that it accepted the FCC’s reasoning that competition from municipal systems works well.

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