Obama to Ask FCC to Preempt Anti-Municipal Broadband Laws

The Telecommunications Law Resource Center is the most comprehensive reference and news platform for communications law, covering broadcasting, cable, broadband, telephony and wireless;...

By Lydia Beyoud

Jan. 13 — President Barack Obama is expected to outline new policies Jan. 14 to eliminate laws that harm broadband service competition, including calling on the Federal Communications Commission to help address barriers inhibiting municipal broadband, a White House official said Jan. 13.

“There's no question some state laws tilt the playing field” against municipal broadband services, said Jeffrey Zients, director of the National Economic Council at the White House, during a press call. The administration will file a letter with the FCC asking it to draw on its tools to remove barriers to competition in the 19 states that have such laws, Zients said.

The policy is part of the president's goal to bring faster, better and more affordable broadband Internet service to all Americans, the White House said in a fact sheet released after a press call previewing the president's remarks in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The president has embarked on a series of events the week of Jan. 12 ahead of his Jan. 20 State of the Union address.

Part of that initiative includes making new grant and loan opportunities available to rural providers through the Department of Agriculture, Zients said.

That includes $40 million to $50 million available to rural providers in 2015 through the USDA Farm Bill Broadband Program, Zients said. The agency is expected to announce details on the program, as well as additional funding for grants available to rural providers through its Community Connect program, Zients said.

The White House is expected to create an interagency working group with the sole goal of speeding broadband deployment nationwide, he said. The group's work may include streamlining permitting approvals across the government and in collaboration with state governments, Zients said.

The FCC has proceedings under way to consider petitions from municipal broadband providers in North Carolina and Tennessee to preempt state laws prohibiting the expansion of municipal broadband or public-private partnership services. The commission may vote on the petitions at its Feb. 26 meeting, when it also considers final net neutrality rules, a competitive broadband industry source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 12.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lydia Beyoud in Washington at lbeyoud@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com

Text of the White House fact sheet is at http://op.bna.com/der.nsf/r?Open=palo-9sqv5r.