Ajit Pai's chief of staff says that the FCC shouldn't allow cities to set up public ISPs where state law prohibits it, even when no other broadband is available, and warns Democratic commissioners that they shouldn't do things that future Republican administrations might object to.
He's couching his arguments in terms of local autonomy and states' rights, but his vision of local autonomy doesn't include actual localities like cities and towns, because "local subdivisions merely 'are created as convenient agencies for exercising such of the governmental powers of the State as may be entrusted to them in their absolute discretion.'"
Twenty states place at least some limits on the ability of cities and towns to offer Internet service to residents through laws passed as favors to cable companies and other ISPs. Wheeler argues that because Section 706 gives the FCC authority to promote competition in local telecommunications markets by removing barriers to investment, the commission can preempt laws that prevent cities and towns from creating their own broadband networks that compete against private companies. The Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the city of Wilson, North Carolina, which both say local laws prevent them from expanding Internet service to surrounding areas, have filed petitions asking the commission to do just that.
(Image: Cut Cables, Nick Webb, CC-BY)