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Tennessee Challenges FCC Broadband Order

(CN) - Tennessee's attorney general is appealing an FCC decision allowing certain cities to offer broadband Internet beyond their normal coverage area.

Herbert Slatery's office, through attorney Joshua Turner of Wiley Rein LLP, asked the 6th Circuit to set aside an order allowing Chattanooga, Tenn. to expand its municipal broadband service territory.

"In the order, the FCC preempts Tennessee law pertaining to the operation of municipal electric plants, including the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, an instrumentality of the city of Chattanooga, created and controlled by the state of Tennessee," the petition for review states. "In doing so, the FCC has unlawfully inserted itself between the state of Tennessee and the state's own political subdivisions."

Slatery argues the order exceeds the FCC's authority and constitutes an abuse of discretion under the Administrative Procedure Act.

The Electric Power Board of Chattanooga and the City of Wilson, N.C. filed petitions in July 2014 to allow them to provide broadband to communities neighboring their service area.

The FCC order granting them permission to do so was released March 12 and took effect immediately. It stated that Tennessee and North Carolina laws restricting municipal provision of broadband "are barriers to broadband infrastructure investment and thwart competition."

The FCC found that the Chattanooga power board has the financial and technical resources to serve surrounding areas.

"Communities across the nation, including these two petitioners, understand that access to fast, fair, and open broadband networks is key to their economic future - and the future of their citizens," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. "But as the commission's 2015 Broadband Progress Report makes clear, broadband deployment - especially in rural areas - is not occurring broadly or quickly enough to meet the increasing bandwidth demands of consumers."

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