Code & Conduit Podcast: What’s Next for Muni Broadband?


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The latest episode of Bloomberg BNA’s Code & Conduit Podcast focuses on the legal and policy issues surrounding recent court action on municipal broadband networks, and what might be on the horizon for local solutions to getting internet access into more communities nationwide.

Despite a major loss in the courts for municipal broadband efforts, it’s been a banner year for communities that are looking at ways to deploy internet service to areas not served, or underserved, by private broadband providers.

The Federal Communications Commission’s move to preempt laws in two states, North Carolina and Tennessee, which restricted the growth of municipal broadband, highlighted the policy debate. The agency relied heavily on its authority under Sec. 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which enables the agency to expand broadband access nationwide.

But the Democratic-led commission ran into trouble when a federal court, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, struck down the agency’s rules Aug. 10 on the grounds of  regulatory overreach. The FCC lacked a clear directive from Congress to extend its Sec. 706 authority so far as to overturn state law, the court said. 

While the FCC declined to pursue the matter in court, that doesn’t mean others are looking at ways to boost muni broadband or find other solutions, like public-private partnerships, that might help bring broadband to small communities. 

Bloomberg BNA’s Kyle Daly, a senior tech and telecom reporter, and Ellie Smith, a recent summer intern and current political communication student at George Washington University, tell us how muni broadband became such a big issue, what happened in the court case, and what’s next for the future of locally run network.

You can read more of Kyle’s and Ellie’s reporting on our technology, telecom and internet blog, or on Bloomberg Law. If you liked what you heard in the podcast, sign up for a free trial of Bloomberg BNA’s legal and regulatory news and content.

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