U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., is moving to overturn a Federal Communications Commission decision that would lift restrictions on city-owned broadband service.
The FCC on Thursday approved the city of Wilson’s petition to remove state restrictions that limited its ability to expand its broadband service called Greenlight.
The restrictions were put into North Carolina law in 2011 when Tillis was House speaker. The legislation, among other restrictions, prevented cities from offering broadband below cost.
Private companies complained that city-owned broadband represented unfair competition, while cities and towns said they offered service in areas where companies were unwilling to go.
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Tillis, in a statement, objected to the FCC vote Thursday to overrule existing state laws. Tillis and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee announced they were filing legislation to prevent the FCC from overturning state or local broadband laws. Chattanooga also won an FCC ruling related to state restrictions.
“It is disturbing, yet not surprising, that the FCC and Chairman (Tom) Wheeler are attempting to deny the sovereign right of states to make their own laws,” Tillis said in a statement. “After witnessing how some local governments wasted taxpayer dollars and accumulated millions in debt through poor decision-making, the legislatures of states like North Carolina and Tennessee passed commonsense, bipartisan laws that protect hardworking taxpayers and maintain the fairness of free-market competition.”
According to Tillis’ statement, Wilson lost money on the project: $2.1 million in 2008, $1.1 million in 2009. $1.4 million in 2010, $1.06 million in 2011, and $1.3 million in 2012.
It made a profit of $723,881 in 2013.
A statement from the city of Wilson applauded the FCC vote.
“By its action today, the FCC has empowered local North Carolina communities to do whatever it takes for all of our citizens to realize the benefits of access to essential gigabit infrastructure in our beautiful state,” the statement said.