Booker unveils municipal broadband bill after SOTU

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is slated to introduce legislation meant to push back on state laws restricting the build out of city-run Internet networks. 

The announcement comes a day after President Obama's State of the Union address in which he highlighted his own plan to expand municipal broadband across the country. 

Booker's legislation — the Community Broadband Act — would block any state "statute, regulation, or other legal requirement" that restricts cities from providing their own Internet network. His legislation to tweak the Telecommunications Act of 1996 will be introduced Thursday.

Booker's office framed the issue as one that could help rural and low-income communities. At least 19 states around the country have laws on the books setting limits on the creation or expansion of municipal broadband networks. 

The legislation is aimed at an "industry that wants to maintain monopolies in many ways,” the New Jersey senator told a small group of technology reporters Tuesday night, where he previewed the legislation.   

The freshman senator said the bill is the first part of his push to focus more on technology issues, based on two principles.

"One is making government an active role-player in fostering environments where innovation can thrive, and the other one is for government to sort of keep up with the pace of innovation and not slow it down," he said, hours ahead of Obama's speech. 

Booker said he was supportive of Obama’s approach and his office noted similarities between the two proposals. 

His office would not say whether he had discussed the legislation with the White House, though it is unlikely to advance in the Republican controlled Senate. 

Obama's initiative unveiled last week aimed at tackling the issue through the executive branch, rather than through legislation. The administration has called on the Federal Communications Commission to use its authority to override state laws that limit the creation or expansion of municipal broadband.

The White House has also recently highlighted a number of grants and loans to incentivize cities.

Booker, an avid user of Twitter, described his experience as mayor of Newark, N.J., where he became interested in driving technology in cities.

He said future areas of focus could come on tax policy, immigration, research and development and diversity. 

Part of his broader plan, he said, would be to push the administration in some areas. He referenced the slow pace of the Federal Aviation Administration in developing regulations governing commercial drones.