Republican Senators Warn FCC’s Wheeler Against 'Usurping' State laws

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Almost a dozen Republican senators say they are deeply troubled by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler's plan to preempt state laws inhibiting municipal broadband, or what they characterize as usurping states’ rights and forced taxpayer funding of broadband competition.

In a letter to Chairman Wheeler dated June 5, the senators -- including Sens Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), both members of the Communications Subcommittee -- referred to Chairman Wheeler's April 30 speech to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, a group the FCC chairman once headed -- that he believed the FCC had the power and the duty to preempt. The senators said they were deeply concerned that the FCC would "force taxpayer-funded competition against private broadband providers"-- something the cable industry is also concerned about for obvious reasons.

They suggested "inserting" the FCC into economic and fiscal affairs in "such a cavalier fashion" was a states' rights issue. They said the states can better protect against unnecessary spending, debt and waste than unelected bureaucrats. Opponents of preemption have argued that the laws are on the books because elected representatives of the people concluded they should be, a point the senators made.

"State political leaders are accountable to the voters who elected them, and the Commission would be well-advised to respect state sovereignty," they said. "The last thing the Commission should do in these trying fiscal times, with so many other important priorities, is usurp state policy with respect to municipal broadband,” they said.

Also signing on to the letter were Sens Deb Fischer (R-NE), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Tim Scott (R-SC), Mike Enzi (R-WY), John Barrasso (R-WY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Tom Coburn (R-OK).

Republican Senators Warn FCC’s Wheeler Against 'Usurping' State laws