The Federal Communications Commission may nullify a Tennessee law that restricts the abilities of cities to build their own high-speed Internet networks.
Chattanooga, Tenn., has built a municipal broadband network to consumers' homes, but a state law is preventing the city government from expanding the service to more residents.
In a blog post Tuesday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said broadband projects like the one in Chattanooga are bringing new competition and spurring economic growth. He argued that local governments "shouldn't be stopped by state laws promoted by cable and telephone companies that don't want that competition."
"I believe that it is in the best interests of consumers and competition that the FCC exercises its power to preempt state laws that ban or restrict competition from community broadband," he said. "Given the opportunity, we will do so."
But the move could face resistance from Republican lawmakers. Eleven GOP senators sent a letter to Wheeler last week, warning him not to "usurp" state power.
The senators, led by Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, said it is "deeply troubling" that the FCC may "force taxpayer funded competition against broadband providers — against the wishes of states."