Formal Petitions Filed on Behalf of Community Networks

Thursday, July 24, 2014
CONTACT: Rebecca Toews


Minneapolis, MN — The first shot in the battle over community broadband networks has been fired. After months of talk and speculation, two communities are officially asking the FCC to remove state restrictions on cable competition.

Chattanooga, TN and Wilson, NC filed petitions today with the Federal Communications Commission, asking them to remove state laws that restrict their ability to offer services outside of their territories — restrictions that do not apply to their rivals. Both states passed restrictions on community owned networks following lobbying campaigns by incumbent firms like Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and AT&T.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, far removed from his days lobbying for the cable industry, has all but publicly invited such petitions in order to encourage new investment and competition in the industry. However, Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has led an effort to allow states to continue restricting local authority.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is the leading authority on building successful community networks, and tracks over 400 municipal networks across the country. We have authored case studies on both networks.

“The move today cuts right to the heart of local authority,” says Christopher Mitchell, director of Community Broadband Networks with The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). “The ultimate question is who decides what investments are right for each community — that community or officials far removed from it..”

If the FCC agrees with the petitions, the big cable companies will almost certainly appeal it to the DC Circuit Court, where a recent Verizon v. FCC opinion specifically noted that this type of action is well within its authority.



ilsrlogo40th JPG 380x486-234x300We believe we make better and more informed policies when those who design those policies are those who feel their impact.

ILSR works with citizens, activists, policymakers and entrepreneurs to provide them with innovative strategies and working models that support environmentally sound and equitable economic policies and community development. Since 1974, ILSR has championed local self-reliance, a strategy that underscores the need for humanly scaled institutions and economies and the widest possible distribution of ownership.





Rick UsherChristopher Mitchell is the Director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Mitchell leads the acclaimed as part of ILSR’s effort to ensure broadband networks are directly accountable to the communities that depend upon them.

He is a leading national expert on community networks, advises high-ranking broadband decision-makers, speaks on radio and television programs in markets across the United States, and frequently presents at telecommunications policy events around the world.

Mitchell, the author of Santa Monica City Net: An Incremental Approach to Building a Fiber Optic Network and Minnesota Local Governments Advance Super Fast Networks, has been at the center of the battle to help more than 400 cities lead the way in offering the nation’s fastest and least expensive telecommunications services. “We know community broadband networks work and we know they are a key to vibrant modern local economies.”