Tennessee sues feds for blocking Web law

Tennessee is suing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over its attempt to block a state law limiting the growth of government-run Internet providers.

The state on Friday filed a petition with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals claiming that the agency’s action violates the Constitution and the federalist approach to governance.

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“[T]he FCC has unlawfully inserted itself between the State of Tennessee and the State’s own political subdivisions,” lawyers for the state wrote in their filing.

Last month, the three Democratic commissioners on the FCC voted to nullify laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that prevented Internet services run by local municipalities from expanding beyond their borders. The action came at the request of the towns — Chattanooga, Tenn., and Wilson, N.C. — and was framed by supporters as critical to promoting competition. 

President Obama had also backed the federal intervention, telling the agency in January to “push back on those old laws” that exist in nearly 20 states around the country. 

The FCC action only nullified laws in Tennessee and North Carolina, but the move practically invited other cities in states with similar rules to bring their complaints to the agency.  

Critics have stood in fast opposition.

Republicans on the FCC accused their colleagues at the time of rewriting state law from the halls of Washington. GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been equally critical. 

In their petition asking the court to take up the suit, Tennessee accused the agency’s of exceeding its authority by issuing an order that is "contrary to the United States Constitution" and “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion...”

News of the suit comes on the same day that a major telecommunications trade group filed suit against the FCC over its controversial net neutrality regulations. 

Critics of the agency have pointed to those twin actions as signs of bureaucratic overreach and an indication that the independent FCC is being used as a political pawn to rally populist support for President Obama.