Thursday, July 19, 2007

Local governments in federal courts to block telcos' end run to the FCC

Telcos adamant to avoid local government broadband infrastructure build out requirements went to Congress last year seeking legislation preempting local government authority to award "video franchises" and place it in the hands of the feds.

When that failed, the telcos then directed their efforts at state legislatures to get the locals off their backs. They have been successful in at least a dozen states, getting legislation with limited build out requirements that allow them to bypass local areas they don't want to serve, effectively making the digital divide law.

The telcos apparently want to buy insurance at the federal level despite their failure to get Congress to go along. So they're doing an end run around Congress by going to the Federal Communications Commission. Earlier this year, the FCC went along with them and promulgated regulations barring local governments from requiring telcos to build out their broadband infrastructure to serve an entire community and also giving the locals a short time frame to act on telco applications for franchises.

Not so fast, a coalition of local government and non-profit groups say. This week, they filed briefs in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit arguing the FCC lacks statutory to do so since the telcos failed to get federal legislation enacted last year.

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