House Republicans urge FCC to 'defer' to states

House Republicans are warning Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler to tread carefully as he tries to open up local governments to more broadband competition.

Their Thursday letter, led by House Energy and Commerce Vice Chairwoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), comes after Wheeler’s repeated pledges to make the market for Internet access more competitive by creating opportunities for community broadband projects, currently restricted by state laws.

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“Inserting the Commission into the states’ economic and fiscal affairs as you have suggested ... violates state sovereignty in a manner that warrants deeper examination,” said the 60 House Republicans who signed the missive.

Wheeler told the Energy and Commerce Committee last month that “If municipal governments want to pursue [community broadband projects], they shouldn’t be inhibited by state laws that have been adopted at the behest of incumbent providers looking to limit competition."

In their letter, the group of House Republicans urged Wheeler to defer to state governments, which “understand and are more attentive to the needs of the American people than unelected federal bureaucrats in Washington.”

They questioned Wheeler’s “ploy to override state laws restricting municipal broadband” and whether federal funding would be needed to bail out any municipal broadband projects that fail.

“We respectfully ask that you reevaluate the Commission’s future role in influencing government owned networks and how important the role our state elected officials have in this process,” they wrote, asking that their questions on Wheeler’s intentions be answered by June 30.