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Appeals Court Decision Kills North Carolina Town's Gigabit Internet (hothardware.com) 222

MojoKid writes: In early August, the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the FCC had no authority to prevent states from imposing restrictions on municipal internet. This was a result of the FCC stepping in last year in an effort to "remove barriers to broadband investment and competition." However, the courts sided with the states, which said that the FCC's order impeded on state rights. In the end, this ruling clearly favored firmly entrenched big brand operators like Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and ATT, which lobbied hard to keep competition at bay. The federal ruling specifically barred municipal internet providers from offering service outside of their city limits, denying them from providing service to under-served communities. The fallout from the federal court's rejection of the FCC order to extend a lifeline to municipal internet providers has claimed another victim. The small community of Pinetops, North Carolina -- population 1,300 -- will soon have its gigabit internet connection shut off. Pinetops has been the recipient of Greenlight internet service, which is provided by the neighboring town of Wilson. The town of Wilson has been providing electric power to Pinetops for the past 40 years, and had already deployed fiber through the town in order to bolster its smart grid initiative. What's infuriating to the Wilson City Council and to the Pinetop residents that will lose their high-speed service is that the connections are already in place. There's no logical reason why they should be cut off, but state laws and the lobbyists supporting those laws have deemed what Greenlight is doing illegal. Provide power to a neighboring town -- sure that's OK. Provide better internet to a neighboring town -- lawsuit
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Appeals Court Decision Kills North Carolina Town's Gigabit Internet

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  • Just like States can impose restrictions on where you pee.

    • Re:Right. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by philip456 ( 2923103 ) on Thursday September 22, 2016 @03:31AM (#52936883)
      Don't blame the states, blame the big corporations and blame us for looking the other way while we got to the situation, where $2.6 billion of reported lobbying (bribery) donations are given to the House and Senate every year.
      • Re:Right. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by currently_awake ( 1248758 ) on Thursday September 22, 2016 @08:43AM (#52937777)
        Blame the politicians for taking bribes, or being influenced by deep pocket corporations. People can demand these monopoly laws be removed, the voting record of the state politicians is a matter of public record so you know who to blame. Politicians only get away with this corruption because the voters don't care. Also spin off the municipal broadband as a private corporation and they can keep it running.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by dkone ( 457398 )

        How in the fcuk did this comment get modded as insightful? Out of the three you got 1 right.

        Don't blame the States - Wrong, blame the States, it is the States (as through it's elected officials) that is taking the bribes (meaning the 'legal' lobbying).
        Blame the big corporation - Correct.
        Blame us- Wrong. The corruption of politics is so complete that if you believe your vote counts for anything then you are delusional.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Blame us- Wrong. The corruption of politics is so complete that if you believe your vote counts for anything then you are delusional.

          Your influence in government is increased the more local that government is. Your vote may not count much (if at all) at a federal level, but it does at the state level.

          • I'm assuming you've never heard of ACCE [alec.org], the American City County Exchange (for corporate dollars). It's the "local" version of ALEC, so they can control even your city council, local school boards, etc. "ACCE brings together local elected officials, leading industry experts and policy analysts" to compute the most effective exploitation system of citizen-based resources, tax deferments, multi-state corporate agendas, etc. ACCE is the "snake in the garden", reporting on local council meetings so they can "a
    • by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Thursday September 22, 2016 @03:45AM (#52936911) Homepage

      Blame North Carolina for passing a bad law. The courts did no more than affirm the states' right to regulate their municipalities.

      While you're at it, blame Wilson for overreaching. They could have made a case for installing basic infrastructure (fiber optic cable, no different than roads) and then leasing it by the strand to individuals and businesses to connect to the Internet provider of their choice. And invited providers to enter the market and compete, now with the ease-of-entry facilitated by last-mile infrastructure. Instead they made the same bad decision most municipalities make: run a municipal Internet service with no direct access to the cable for other purposes.

      • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Thursday September 22, 2016 @05:06AM (#52937107)

        Good news it can now go to the supreme court. Then let's see if they find that "state's rights" trump the rights of local municipalities or not. State's rights is pure hypocrisy, whining that the feds have too much power while turning around and exerting undue power over it's own citizens, all for no rational legal purpose than to get campaign funds from donors, while the rights of the people are ignored. Libertarians are probably in a tizzy over this; support small government, or support their traditional allies the big corporations.

        • You don't understand what you are ranting about. When the Constitution was established the government was seen as two key entities, the States which are under local control and the Federal Government. Municipalities are entities of the state and are subordinate to it. States rights are a legitimate check on Federal power. The States are supposed to have greater power to influence events and actions entirely internal to the state.

          I don't agree with this ruling as broadband should be treated as a utility a
          • Hate to break it to you moron but cities existed before states. So no municipalities are not entities of the state. State government has jurisdiction over cities in so much as that is allowed. State government does not control all aspects of cities.
        • by Fjandr ( 66656 )

          This is long-settled law. The Constitution of a State always trumps municipal powers, because all municipal powers ultimately depend on devolution from the State Constitution.

          • No it doesn't. Power of city government is derived from the people. Period. It's what the people want. State government has certain authority over cities but that is not absolute, nor permanent.
        • by currently_awake ( 1248758 ) on Thursday September 22, 2016 @08:47AM (#52937803)
          Municipal broadband affects the inter-state commerce of internet service, it changes the price in the national market. This means the federal government can use the inter-state commerce law to regulate it (this is the same reasoning they used to regulate people growing marijuana for personal use)..
      • by John Smith ( 4340437 ) on Thursday September 22, 2016 @05:23AM (#52937173)
        Basic fibre internet is the rural electrification of the 21st century.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 22, 2016 @06:23AM (#52937337)

        So you thini there's somehow a natural right for some private entity to be given access to infrastructure they did not build so they can make a profit because...I can't even make up a because here.

        There is no right of privitization. Despite what conservatives think, capitalism is not enshrined in our Constitution and if we the people decide we want to provide something absent some fatcats making money off of it then that is our right.

        I'll grant that shouldn't be done in haste, but no justification is needed. In this case there's plenty of justification. Cable and telecomm companies these days do nothing but engage in rent seeking behavior and holding back progress.

        North Carolina is wrong and the court is wrong. In all the furor over states' rights everyone is forgetting peoples' rights.

        Now, in a large screw you gesture to the vastly corrupt and totally owned by corporate interests North Carolina state government, what ought to happen here is that the people in these towns should form a non profit company in which they all own equal shares. They can elect a board to run it, get tax rebates and gifts from their governments for startup money just like billionaire sports team owners get who don't want to pay their own business expenses, and run the thing the way it's being run right now. Of course the company would have in its charter a prohibition on ever being sold to a for profit entity.

        • by Vulch ( 221502 )
          So you thini there's somehow a natural right for some private entity to be given access to infrastructure they did not build so they can make a profit because...I can't even make up a because here.

          Who's *giving* them anything? They can *buy* access, and the entity that installed the infrastructure can then recoup their costs and maintain it. Seems to work perfectly well in the UK.

        • Municipal governments don't have rights, they have responsibilities and areas of authority as assigned by the state governments. To misunderstand that is to grossly misunderstand basic civics in the United States.

          You also misunderstood what I wrote if you think I made any sort of claim that there's "right for some private entity to be given access to infrastructure they did not build."

          I spoke to the smart plan, not any kind of rightful one. The smart plan is to build roads and let private enterprise build c

          • No it is not. City government gains it's power from the people. Cities existed before States. Any authority that state government has over city can be challenged and changed.
        • There is no right of privitization. Despite what conservatives think, capitalism is not enshrined in our Constitution and if we the people decide we want to provide something absent some fatcats making money off of it then that is our right.
          ..
          In all the furor over states' rights everyone is forgetting peoples' rights.

          If I were a federal judge, I would that we the people decided to not provide the something. This has nothing to do with conservatism or capitalism. It's a result of a state law, passed ostens

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        ... leasing it by the strand to individuals and businesses ...

        Councils don't build roads and then lease them to toll operators; they don't install mains water pipes and lease them to a 'water operator': Operating the whole service is the point of council: There are 2 exceptions for civil infrastructure; electricity and communications. Electricity isn't so bad since it is tightly regulated once it leaves the provider's sub-station. In hindsight, it was wrong of councils to outsource communication infrastructure, which has created the very mess councils are now mire

        • by khallow ( 566160 )
          I work for a concessionaire who specializes in operating recreational facilities built by someone else, usually governments. So yes, it happens all the time.
        • the states can forbid councils from building roads or installing mains water services.

          This is common. For example, in Virginia incorporated cities are required to maintain their own roads (and may collect taxes for the same) while county roads are maintained by the state and the county governments are generally forbidden to do roadwork.

          The state government decides what subordinate governments are allowed to do and what activities are reserved to the state government. This is long, long settled law.

      • by bigpat ( 158134 )

        Blame North Carolina for passing a bad law. The courts did no more than affirm the states' right to regulate their municipalities.

        While you're at it, blame Wilson for overreaching. They could have made a case for installing basic infrastructure (fiber optic cable, no different than roads) and then leasing it by the strand to individuals and businesses to connect to the Internet provider of their choice. And invited providers to enter the market and compete, now with the ease-of-entry facilitated by last-mile infrastructure. Instead they made the same bad decision most municipalities make: run a municipal Internet service with no direct access to the cable for other purposes.

        Yes, this was a technical decision about the ability of states to tell municipalities what they could and could not do... Courts basically treat municipalities of a subdivision of the states, so state law and state regulations always take precedence. It is a legal no-brainer.

        But for every bureaucratic decision there is usually some other bureaucratic way around it. For municipalities trying to promote local Internet Service there seem like a dozen different ways to do it. Just set up a non-profit, give

      • But they are causing harm to the citizens ass-hole. Like the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court took into consideration the effects of over turning the law and the effect it would have on people. The Federal circuit could have done the same thing. Since the connection was in place, they could leave it but prohibit new connections. Bottom line the State is overriding the will of the people in that municipality.
    • Ironically, given the nature of the business of the corporations in question and the internet in particular, this is actually a situation where an originalist reading of the commerce clause would give the feds carte blanche. The one time the courts fucking should apply it, they don't.

  • by Z80a ( 971949 ) on Thursday September 22, 2016 @03:11AM (#52936823)

    Arrest anyone that tries to shut it off.

    • Arrest anyone that tries to shut it off.

      That would be contempt of court, and the arresting officer would be facing potentially serious jail time if coupled with deprivation of liberty charges.

      Unfortunately big business has trampled roughshod over citizens rights, yet again.

      • Who's going to jail the arresting officer? What if the entire city's police department joins him? Are they going to send in the state police and have a war between them? That'd be interesting to see, actually.

    • Arrest anyone that tries to shut it off.

      Anarchy -- now that's the spirit. The country may go up in flames as more and more people model your example and just "take what's theirs," but thank heavens 1300 people will have a fast pipe to read about it.

      • by Z80a ( 971949 )

        If everything becomes anarchy, yes.
        But it is a good tool to have on your belt when everything else fails, kinda like having a picklock for when you lose your keys.

  • Bribery wins again (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dog-Cow ( 21281 ) on Thursday September 22, 2016 @03:24AM (#52936871)

    At the very least, service should keep running until someone else provides service. It's not as if Comcast is going to provide service within anyone's lifetime just because Greenlight stops.

  • Have to hope it motivates them to do something about the legislators that did this.

    Kind of happy though, good to see the courts get a Constitutional issue right. They have been pulling far too much out of their ass in the name of making feel good lately.

  • Work around? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flex941 ( 521675 ) on Thursday September 22, 2016 @03:39AM (#52936895)
    An European here cannot comprehend what's preventing creating a Pinetop Municipal Broadband Company which will provide the connection to locals and contractually buying bandwidth/network and other related services from the Wilson guys?
    • Re:Work around? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 22, 2016 @03:49AM (#52936921)

      Yeah, sell the fiber network to Pinetops for $1 and then they can hire Wilson to run the net.

      • Yeah, sell the fiber network to Pinetops for $1 and then they can hire Wilson to run the net.

        That would require that there be a legally entity "Pinetops" to do the buying. If it's an unincorporated area, there isn't. Of course, the residents of Pinetops could create a corporation "Pinetops Internet", or something, and have it buy the fiber network. Assuming the state law doesn't prevent that somehow.

        • by BigT ( 70780 )

          Assuming the state law doesn't prevent that somehow.

          If it doesn't now, it will as soon as Comcast/Time Warner/etc gets out their checkbook.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What I as a European don't understand is how it can be that the state can enforce an ISP monopoly. In the United States of Frothing Freemarketia no less.

      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        Capitalism trumps Free Market.

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          This thing is not only neither but blatantly anti-capitalistic.
          It's saying you can't sell stuff because the government is saying you cannot.

          We put up with that sort of obstruction to capitalism when the stuff is dangerous, but when it's this arbitrary it's behaving like a communist or other authoritarian government.
        • Capitalism trumps Free Market.

          Using the power of government to take taxes, then create competition, is the exact opposite of Free Market.

          All competitors must rely on service quality and cost to convince free people to prefer their product. A government does not, and can force you to pay for the service whether you want it or not.

          As added insult to injury, the company will pay taxes to support this "competitor".

      • We don't have capatilism here, we have a Mercantilistic flavour of Corportism. Followers of true capatilism with open competition need not apply.
      • Re:Work around? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Fjandr ( 66656 ) on Thursday September 22, 2016 @08:21AM (#52937691) Homepage Journal

        What the US has is crony capitalism. All of the drawbacks of socialism with none of the benefits. It doesn't help that people use terms interchangeably that mean vastly different things. There is a revolving door between big business and the government, so risks are nationalized while the rewards are pocketed. The entire system is fundamentally at odds with laissez faire capitalism, so when people yell that this is what happens in a free market those who actually care what words mean discount them as the ignorant buffoons they are.

        • Laissez faire capitalism also results in organizations large enough to buy elections and stand against governments with impunity. There must be limits.

          • by Fjandr ( 66656 )

            In terms of the US, only if you ignore that legal fictions are constituted completely under the powers reserved by the States. Regulation of legal fictions is completely within the power of the several States as outlined by the 10th Amendment. We have the problems we do now because people have been complacent regarding the use of expedient, but patently unconstitutional, shortcuts to get the results they desire faster. The electorate is ultimately to blame, because people are greedy and self-serving when it

    • Re:Work around? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Thursday September 22, 2016 @05:15AM (#52937147)

      Because that too would be disallowed under state law. The locals have no political power. None of this has anything to do with any legal theory or ideal regarding state's rights, it's all about campaign donations. Oh sure, there's some frantic handwaving about how all government is evil and so a municipal government can't tax citizens to provide basic services, even if the citizens voted for it, so therefore there must be an even bigger government to stop that with an iron fist. But no one seriously believes that without being a wearer of tin foil hats. Pure and simple it's all about getting re-elected, which means getting big companies to give you money, and only picking on people that the average voter won't know or care about.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 22, 2016 @03:43AM (#52936907)

    In the end, this ruling clearly favored firmly entrenched big brand operators like Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and ATT, which lobbied hard to keep competition at bay.

    Can we just call a spade a spade, and treat "lobbying" as a bribe? I'm getting sick of seeing this blatant corruption.

    • by TimSSG ( 1068536 )
      Depending on what you mean by "lobbying" it is NOT always a bribe; it many cases it is instead protection money.
      Tim S.

      In the end, this ruling clearly favored firmly entrenched big brand operators like Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and ATT, which lobbied hard to keep competition at bay.

      Can we just call a spade a spade, and treat "lobbying" as a bribe? I'm getting sick of seeing this blatant corruption.

      • by v1 ( 525388 )

        Can we just call a spade a spade, and treat "lobbying" as a bribe? I'm getting sick of seeing this blatant corruption.

        Lets not forget these laws were passed by elected officials. When you "follow the money" you find that interests find pairs of politicians competing for office where one of then tends to vote for the company's interests, and the other does not. They shower the one that does with political donations. That money goes toward advertising during the next election. Remember, it's still the peo

    • So according to you people do not have the right to petition their government. Instead we should just accept whatever is forced on us!
  • So much for the Free Market Economy.........
    • Essentially you can not become a politician without also being a hypocrite, no matter what political party it is.

    • by Fjandr ( 66656 )

      The US has never, for a second, had a free market economy any larger than a farmer's market.

  • Confused (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stealth_finger ( 1809752 ) on Thursday September 22, 2016 @03:51AM (#52936923)
    Is this basically the state saying to its people "fuck you, you can't have good internet because it's not sold by our buddies who would rip you off if they could be bothered, but they can't. So again, fuck you"?
  • That goodness there is a lobby group available to protect big business and their right to gouge profit from every community around.

  • Ideology over common sense (in this case the ideology is that private free market is the highest goal). We all know how well this ended for the USSR.

    • Preventing competition via laws/government/regulations is not a free market. It is Mercantilism/Corporitism.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... you will have to choose between the Law and Morals.

    I have a friend who gets very angry when he talks about Morals; he has no qualms about the concept that the Law must followed however terrible the consequences. He's otherwise a very balanced person.

    IMHO the Law is a tool which we produced to help us live in harmony; if it is used to damage the interests of the people, one has to question if that tool is working well according to the original intent (aka the "Spirit of the Law") -- reference: https://en

  • by JenovaSynthesis ( 528503 ) on Thursday September 22, 2016 @07:58AM (#52937601)

    This court decision is not binding on the state of North Carolina. The Sixth Circuit covers Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. North Carolina is in the Fourth Circuit. Decisions in other circuits are merely persuasive authority, not binding. Only the Supreme Court can do that.

  • Split the company (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Each municipality should have an independent company that works in partnership with the other. With a minimal of overhead, they will be able to sidestep state law.

  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Thursday September 22, 2016 @08:26AM (#52937715)
    The National Guard is busy in Charlotte, there will be no one around to stop the riot!
  • Privatize the fiber, call it a Co-Op

    There all fixed, next injustice please.

  • First the coddling of Duke Energy, then HB2 and now this. But go on voting Republican because zOMG SOCIALISM! or you hates them feelthy preverts.

    • Unlike the Democrats and they goosing stepping minions and shutting down speech the Republican party is a wide open to a variety of people and beliefs. Unfortunately this means you get some people who do things like this.
      Another difference is that you have Republicans that are fighting this law and under the Democrats it is accept it or else.
  • Because of all the situations in which the Interstate Commerce Clause has been stretched to extend Federal authority, Internet access isn't one of them.

  • Pinetops should just announce that they are now merging with the town of Wilson. No more issues.

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