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News and comments on community broadband networks, the communities deploying them and the technologies that support them. Published by Denise Frey and Al Bonnyman.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2004


U.S. Supreme Court upholds state's right to ban municipal broadband projects

Voting 8 to 1, the U.S. Supreme Court just issued a ruling upholding Missouri's restrictions on municipal broadband projects.

Seeking to foster competition, Congress changed the laws governing telecommunications regulation in 1996. One aspect of this act was to ban the states from stopping "any entity" from entering the telecommunications.

The Court today ruled that Congress lacked the constitutional authority to interfere in the relationship between state and local governments, at least in the way Congress worded this particular statute. (Legally, local governments in the U.S., while often acting autonomously of state government in most matters, are ultimately considered subdivisions of state government).

The majority's opinion specifically declined to rule on the merits of municipal telecommunications project, basing its' opinion on its' reading of the statute, the legislative history and its' own assumptions about Congress's intent with respect to municipal entities.

Karl Bode has a long article on the implications of this ruling for municipal broadband activity in the U.S. Karl has been following the issue for a long time; his interview last year with municipal broadband legal expert Jim Baller is a must-read for anyone interested in municipal broadband.

(News from Abigail Ransonet at Lafayette Utilities System and Jim Baller at the Baller Herbst Law Group)


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