Netflix to FCC: Allow government-owned Internet services

Netflix is declaring that cities and local governments should be allowed to build out their own Internet services. 

The online video giant told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a filing made public on Tuesday that it should step in to block state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that prevent cities from expanding their own services to compete with companies like Comcast or Cox.

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The laws in both states “represent retrenchment and a move away from a pro-consumer policy of limitless bandwidth,” the company wrote.

The cities of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Wilson, N.C. — which have asked the FCC to invalidate state laws preventing their government-run Web services from expanding — “should not be hamstrung by state laws enacted at the urging of incumbent broadband providers seeking to maintain market dominance,” Netflix added.

“When municipalities harness that technology to extend new opportunities to new communities, federal and state laws should encourage that initiative, or at the very least, get out of the way," it said.

The two cities have put the FCC on the spot by requesting that it step in to overturn state laws that bar them from building out their Internet providers. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said that the commission has the ability to nullify state laws that limit municipal broadband services if they restrict competition.

Public interest groups have urged the agency to go ahead, but Web providers, the National Governors Association and some Republicans in Congress have warned it to back off

Interfering with state laws would be a federal overreach, critics say, and regulators ought to respect the will of the states.  

The FCC is reviewing comments from the public while considering taking action against the state laws.  

Support for the FCC to intervene in Tennessee and North Carolina is the latest example of Netflix dipping its toe into public policy, but it is far from the first instance.

The company has been an increasingly vocal player in Washington, urging the FCC to block Comcast’s $45 billion bid to buy Time Warner Cable and telling the commission to enact tough rules on Internet service providers to prevent “fast lanes” online.