Dems push FCC on local Internet projects

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) are continuing to pressure the Federal Communications Commission to intervene where state laws keep cities from creating local Internet networks. 

Local governments’ attempts to create opportunities for high-speed Internet “shouldn’t be restricted by technologically unsophisticated state governments,” Doyle said in a statement.

He “strongly” encouraged FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler “and the FCC to take quick and decisive action to lift restrictions that limit or prevent communities from addressing their own broadband needs.”

In a letter earlier this year, Markey, Doyle and six other Democrats in the House and Senate had asked Wheeler for more information. He had announced plans to foster competition among Internet providers, by intervening where state laws were keeping local governments from creating community broadband projects.

Although Capitol Hill Republicans have criticized Wheeler’s pledges to preempt state laws, the Democrats urged him “to utilize the full arsenal of tools Congress has enacted to promote competitive broadband service.”

The lawmakers said the Telecommunications Act was intended “to eliminate barriers to entry into the broadband market and promote competition in order to stimulate more innovation and consumer choice.”

In his response earlier this month, Wheeler thanked the lawmakers for their comments on existing law and said the Commission is reviewing petitions about local Internet projects in Wilson, N.C., and Chattanooga, Tenn.

“I respect the important role of state governments in our federal system, but I know that state laws that directly conflict with critical federal laws and policy may be subject to preemption in appropriate circumstances,” Wheeler wrote.

“I recognize that federal preemption is not a step to be taken lightly,” he continued.

In a statement, Markey applauded “Wheeler’s continued commitment to ensuring that local communities have the opportunity to decide for themselves how best to promote competitive broadband service.”

“What the broadband market needs today are more options and greater local choice, not barriers that prevent cities and towns from participating fully in the global economy,” he said.