Disappointing news from the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals today as the Court chooses to reverse the FCC’s February 2015 preemption order that peeled back restrictive state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina. We have the opinion for you to download and review. You can also view the decision at the Sixth Circuit's website.
We consider the Sixth Circuit’s decision disappointing, incorrect, and we hope the FCC and the cities of Chattanooga and Wilson appeal this decision. Local connectivity and telecommunications should be determined by the people who will be affected by their own decisions, not by officials who are distant, unaware of local matters, and lobbied by rich corporate Internet Service Providers with an interest in limiting competition.
Anti-Monopoly, Pro-Internet Access Groups React
In their statement, Next Century Cities, who joined us in filing an Amicus Brief, said, "Today’s court ruling is a setback in the fight to ensure access to next-generation broadband for more Americans, and Next Century Cities is disappointed by this decision."
The Open Technology Institute (OTI) responded by pointing out that, while the effort to restore local authority has stalled, the FCC's action has focused new attention on the benefits of local publicly owned networks:
“Today’s ruling doesn’t change the fact that these laws were hurting communities in Tennessee and North Carolina. They were written by telecom industry lobbyists to protect incumbents like AT&T and Comcast from competition. Similar laws exist in other states, and they all need to go. State legislatures should repeal these laws and replace them with ones that promote competition and consumer choice.
Although the FCC lost this particular case, the agency’s efforts put a spotlight on these pernicious laws and gave momentum to repeal efforts in statehouses across the country. The case also highlighted the success of locally grown networks, which are typically faster and more affordable than anything offered by private industry. Every community should have the ability to make smart investments in this type of infrastructure.”
Baller, Stokes & Lide, the lead counsel to EPB and Wilson, pointed out that this is only one battle in a war for restoring the rights of communities to pursue their own Internet infrastructure decisions:
“This is a very disappointing decision, but support for local Internet choice is growing rapidly across America, and the fight to preserve, protect, and advance community decision-making will go on,” said Jim Baller.
The Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) and Common Cause also released statements that expressed deep disappointment and a resolve to press on to restore local authority. Common Cause Special Advisor Michael Copps, himself a former FCC Commissioner, stated:
"This decision does not benefit our broadband nation. Nor is it a good reading of the law. But if the FCC cannot set aside these bad laws, then the people must. We will redouble our state-by-state efforts to repeal these odious policies.”
FCC Commissioners Also React
Read their statements about the decision that reversed the Commission's action:
- Chairman Wheeler
- Commissioner Mignon Clyburn
- Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel
- Commissioner Ajit Pai
- Commissioner Mike O’Rielly
To learn more about the decision, check out our prior coverage:
- Resource Central - Get the February 2015 Opinion and Order, all the Briefs, and more from this page.
- Oral Arguments - Listen to the Lawyers argue before the Court.
- Highlights of the FCC Opinion - Good for comparison as you review the Sixth Circuit result.
If you really want to understand this issue well, we recommend Harold Feld's discussion of it on the Wetmachine group blog.
More to come. We will comment further as we dig into the Opinion...