Appeals Court: States May Preempt Locals’ Broadband Efforts

This morning the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued an opinion holding that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may not preempt states from limiting their local governments’ ability to offer municipal broadband services. Reports the Consumerist,

More than a dozen states have laws that either prohibit counties and cities from operating their own broadband internet networks, selling service directly to consumers, or expanding their service behind a prescribed footprint. In 2015, the FCC voted to preempt two of these laws — in Tennessee and North Carolina — but this morning a federal appeals court says the FCC lacks the legal authority to do so.

Counties and cities must follow state law, contends the court, and if that state law forbids local governments from building networks or selling access to a municipally owned network, then the FCC has no business to say otherwise.

Fortunately, Maryland offers its counties a much more favorable climate to offer public sector-backed broadband. Learn more at  MACo’s Summer Conference during the following session, on Thursday, August 18 at 2 pm, hosted by MACo’s Administrators Affiliate:

Broadband — The Forward Connection For Your Citizens and Businesses

Description: Maryland offers an outstanding climate for technology and innovation — but with high speed connectivity still lacking in many areas, the map of access is incomplete. The panel will talk about the best efforts underway to advance priorities for harder-to-serve areas—the sparsely populated expanse, the complex downtown cityscape, and the lower-income density. When open markets cannot deliver, what is the best role for the public sector, or public/private partnerships? What gains can be made working with traditional cable providers, through relationships or franchise agreements? What are counties’ best options to meet demands for quality of life and business competitiveness?


  • Scott Boone, IT Director, Kent County
  • Christopher J. Merdon, CIO, Dept. of Technology & Communications, Howard County
  • Richard R. Nielsen, Senior Engineer, CBG Communications

Moderator: The Honorable Stephen S. Hershey Jr., Maryland State Senate

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: