City and county Broadband: A Snapshot

Those who wish to preempt state laws impacting municipal broadband systems often cite up to 21 says that have limitations or restrictions on such networks. A closer examination of the specific state laws being criticized, however , offers a much different image regarding the scope and particulars of the specific state limitations. In other words, if the Commission were to preempt state laws and regulations (assuming it has requisite authority), what “barriers” would it be preempting? An FCC filing by the Coalition designed for Local Internet Choice (CLIC), an advocate of municipal broadband systems, is a good place to start this analysis. The particular chart below reflects CLIC’s most recent filing with the Commission and organizations individual states based on common restrictions or restrictions (states with multiple limitations are reflected in the chart below).

Upon evaluation, it is clear that many of the restrictions or restrictions appear to be justified practices by state governments and should end up being excluded from any preemption conversation. Beyond the extensive rhetoric and absent Congressional direction, nullifying state-enacted taxpayer protections to further a politics goal sends the Commission down an extremely troubling path.

General Limitation

States Applicable


Needs a referendum by individual localities inside a state seeking to offer broadband providers.


Louisiana Minnesota

North Carolina

This doesn’t appear to be an unreasonable or unachievable burden. For instance, a number of Colorado localities effectively conducted the requisite referendums within November’s election. Any added costs or time would be offset from the protections of local taxpayer financing and assurances of community assistance for such networks.

Requires public hearing(s). Wisconsin and Florida also require an evaluation of the costs and benefits.




This doesn’t seem to be an unreasonable or unachievable burden. Many localities currently conduct public hearings whenever taxpayer funding would be used to compete with private providers.

Prohibits localities above certain population from offering of “telecommunications service, ” because defined by federal law.

The state of nevada

Broadband is not treated currently like a telecommunications service by the FCC, so this isn’t a limitation.

Prohibits selling or leasing telecommunications services to the public or telecommunications facilities to other providers, with some exclusions, including the ability to provide “Internet-type services”.


Not clear that this would actually restrict municipal broadband.

Requires locality within a state to have the local private provider a right associated with first refusal, requires locality in order to solicit bids from private companies or prohibits if private company is offering service. Florida merely demands consideration of whether there are other companies offering similar services.


Michigan Pa


Lakewood ranch

This seems to be a decision that the state governments have made to ensure private companies do not face unfair competition simply by government-sponsored municipal broadband offerings. It also appears consistent with FCC decisions never to provide USF funding in places that are already served.

Requires a written business plan (Florida) or feasibility study (Utah and Louisiana)




This seems to be a choice that the state governments have made to make sure that projects will be sufficiently viable to meet bond obligations. It also appears much like certain FCC requirements that make certain USF funding recipients are economically and technically qualified.

Prevents cross-subsidization and/or imposes some other accounting, funding, or advertising restrictions.

Alabama Wisconsin Virginia

North Carolina

South Carolina



These numerous limitations need to be examined in nearer detail. Restrictions truly designed to prevent cross-subsidization are consistent with existing marketing communications policy.

Adds additional taxes on municipal telecommunications providers.


Any FCC authority in order to preempt restrictions on municipal broadband networks would unlikely extend to mention tax policies, even discriminatory taxes.

Authority for a city and county government entity to provide broadband runs out if a private entity steps ahead.


This prohibition ensures that city and county broadband networks do not displace initiation of private sector broadband choices.

Prohibits public energy districts from providing service directly to consumers.


This has been construed to restrict municipal broadband.

Limits which types of entities may provide municipal broadband service and/or where it is provided.



North Carolina


Arkansas also prohibits the provision associated with basic local exchange service simply by certain entities, but it is ambiguous whether that has limited the provision of broadband.

Prohibits provision of local exchange phone service, basic local telecommunications services, or switched access service.


This has been construed to restrict city and county broadband.

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