U.S. Sixth Circuit Blocks EPB, Other Providers From Expanding Broadband Coverage To Rural Areas

  • Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A ruling on Wednesday by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will not allow EPB to expand its broadband service into outlying areas. 

A lack of strong internet coverage in rural Tennessee areas had led to customers asking EPB to expand its gigabyte broadband internet service. 

Tennessee law prohibits utility companies from expanding their coverage outside of the determined geographical area.  The Federal Communications Commission in February, 2015 voted to block the laws in Tennessee and North Carolina which kept the municipal broadband providers from expanding.  The FCC stated the Telecommunications Act of 1996 in support of preempting the state law, which increases competition and investment.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals three judges on Wednesday voted in favor of the states.  

“Ultimately, Tennessee’s broadband gap is a problem for Tennesseans, and we need a Tennessee solution,” said David Wade, president of EPB. "We will continue to work with the growing number of state legislators and grassroots citizens interested in removing the barriers that prevent EPB and other municipal providers from serving our neighbors in surrounding areas who have little or no access to broadband.

"We are further encouraged by Commissioner Randy Boyd’s interest in addressing the lack of broadband in rural areas. As the head of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, he is especially well positioned to join with state lawmakers in addressing this challenge on behalf of Tennesseans.” 

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III said, “We are pleased with the 6th Circuit decision reversing the FCC’s Order. As we have stated from the outset, this case was not about access to broadband. Instead, it was about preventing the federal government from exercising power over the state of Tennessee that it does not have.

"Current state law allows a municipal power board to provide internet service only within its electric service area. Today’s decision preserves Tennessee’s right to determine the authority and market area of a political subdivision organized under Tennessee law.”

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