WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) issued the following statement after a federal appeals court ruled that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) cannot preempt states like North Carolina from passing municipal broadband laws:
“Today’s ruling affirms the fact that unelected bureaucrats at the FCC completely overstepped their authority by attempting to deny states like North Carolina from setting their own laws to protect hardworking taxpayers and maintain the fairness of the free market.”
In 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law (S.L. 2011-84) that protects taxpayers by barring local governments from using tax dollars to cross-subsidize other local accounts and requiring a vote of citizens to authorize new debt used to fund the broadband service. The law grandfathered the City of Wilson, North Carolina, and two other municipal broadband providers, but required them to follow the requirements set in the legislation if they attempted to expand their service. Wilson subsequently asked for a waiver from those rules, resulting in a decision from the FCC in February 2015 that overturned North Carolina and Tennessee state laws that set requirements on municipalities competing with the private sector in the broadband marketplace.
The FCC’s overreach prompted Senator Tillis and Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) to introduce federal legislation to stop the FCC from pre-empting municipal broadband laws already on the books, or any other municipal broadband laws subsequently adopted by states. The bill also included a Sense of Congress stating that the FCC does not have the legal authority to prohibit states from implementing municipal broadband restrictions. Original co-sponsors of the federal legislation included Representatives Robert Pittenger (R-NC-9), Renee Ellmers (R-NC-2), Mark Meadows (R-NC-11), and David Rouzer (R-NC-7).