Statement by CLIC’s CEO – Joanne Hovis

CLIC has learned that the Gigabit cities of Wilson, NC and Chattanooga, TN petitioned the FCC today to remove barriers to broadband investment and competition posed by certain provisions of Tennessee and North Carolina laws. The petitions argue that these laws were sponsored by incumbents to limit the threat of competition and have created unnecessary barriers that prevent Chattanooga and Wilson from providing their world-class gigabit Internet services to nearby areas.

The net effect is to stifle competition, harm public and private sector economic development, and extinguish associated quality of life improvements in education, health care, energy use and public safety. Nearby communities that desperately want services from these networks are prevented from receiving it. Wilson and Chattanooga have asked the FCC to step in using its authority to promote advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans and preempt these state laws; to let local choice prevail.

Because the power of incumbent providers is so great in each state legislature, there is little hope for a remedy at the state level. These petitions are part of a larger discussion at the national level, whether the promise of modern Internet access will be for ALL Americans, or only for some.

More importantly, if a community wants to partner with a local ISP or build its own network to supply services that are needed in the community, should it have the authority to make that decision itself or should incumbents be able to circumvent it with anti-competitive state laws that work in contravention to local needs and choice?  We side with Wilson and Chattanooga and believe these decisions should be made locally. Fortunately, FCC Chairman Wheeler also agrees with us.

We look forward to a robust discussion and the airing of these issues, and we encourage our members to participate in the unfolding rulemaking. This issue should be of interest to every business and resident that cares about our economy, educational opportunities, and our ability to engage in public discourse as citizens of a republic.