The City of Wilson, while likely bummed out about the snow and ice, scored a victory 250 miles away today in Washington, D.C.
Today’s FCC ruling is a win
for equal access to the Internet, but part of the agency’s decision has even greater implications for North Carolina, particularly Wilson.
The bulk of the FCC’s decision
essentially regulates the Internet to prevent telecom companies from charging customers more for high-speed service, fast lanes, as they’re known. In effect these lanes would be digital toll roads that could discriminate against low-income and rural customers who can’t afford, or don’t have access to them.
But as important to North Carolina, the FCC ruled that states cannot prohibit municipalities
from building out their own broadband networks. In 2011, North Carolina passed an anti-municipal broadband law to appease telecomm companies who feared competition from cities and towns. Wilson and Salisbury, which had begun building fiber networks, were grandfathered under the law. However, these towns have not been allowed to expand their service.
Wilson, the N.C. League of Municipalities and Chattanooga, Tennessee, which also built a network, were among the cities and advocacy groups that had written to the FCC in support of overturning the state laws.
It is expected that the telecom companies will challenge the FCC’s ruling in court. The first stop would be the District of Columbia Circuit Court, but depending on the rulings, the case could advance all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Look for a follow up in next week’s print edition, or when we unearth ourselves from the snow, whichever comes first.