The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to overturn laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that restrict the ability of local government to provide Internet service to their own residents.
Chattanooga, Tenn., and Wilson, N.C., first filed petitions last year asking the FCC to overturn their states' laws on local broadband. Both cities are currently providing Internet service, but their state governments had prevented them from expanding the projects to more residents. Last month, President Obama urged the FCC to grant the petitions as part of his push to expand access to high-speed Internet.
Telecom and cable companies have been lobbying for the state laws around the country, arguing that it's not fair for them to have to compete with government-owned Internet providers. The companies contend that the city projects discourage private investment and are often expensive failures.
But FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler argued that if cities want to invest their own money to ensure that homes and businesses have access to high-speed Internet, then state laws shouldn't stand in their way.
"The bottom line of these matters is that some states have created thickets of red tape to limit competition," Wheeler said Thursday. "What we're doing today is cutting away that red tape, consistent with Congress's instruction to 'encourage the development of broadband' and to 'promote competition.'"