The FCC Just Dealt a Major Blow to Private Internet Providers

February 3rd 2015

Alicia Lutes

Remember last month when President Obama said the FCC should override local laws that banned government-funded, open Internet and were basically written by Time Warner and Comcast? Well the FCC just followed through on President Obama's request by allowing a circumvention of two state laws that bar community-owned Internet providers and broadband networks. 

According to a new mandate from the FCC, (Federal Communications Commission) both Chattanooga, Tenn., and Wilson, N.C., will be allowed to continue to build and use their public, community-based broadband networks in spite of laws in their respective states that restrict the creation of a municipal-backed service.

"If other municipalities seek this, the process may be slightly easier now simply because the commissioner has worked through and outlined the legal authority and specifics in this case of what's appropriate and what the commission can do," an FCC spokesperson told Vice. "Other state laws may be slightly different, but still, the legal authority question has been vetted so the commission wouldn't have to go through that exercise again."

This sort of option is particularly good news for areas where service is either a.) unavailable or b.) spotty and unreliable. And as we hurtle ever-forward into an increasingly digital age, President Obama and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler have both been vocal proponents of lifting laws that restrict such a practice.

And in what will surely be a surprise to no one: the ruling makes private companies and the politicians that love them very unhappy. Both lobbying groups and the companies themselves have claimed that this sort of preemption of the law hurts businesses, and removes any incentive them to create better, faster Internet. To which we have but this to say: If that's really the case what's stopping the innovations right now?

Because even with very few companies holding a veritable monopoly on Internet service in this country, the United States is still 14th in the world when it comes to Internet speeds. (We're behind Latvia and Romania). As it currently stands, Obama and Wheeler's ruling comes on a case-by-case basis, but it does open up the door for many other parts of the country to come together and create their own community-based broadband service despite what their state laws may dictate. How's that for incentive to innovate and be better, huh, Internet providers?