Netflix filed a startling comment with the FCC today: the company wants the Telecommunications Act amended to allow for "a pro-consumer policy of limitless bandwidth," or to put it plainly, so government-run broadband providers can exceed limits set by the law.
The company is echoing FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler's post from June on the FCC blog, in which Wheeler said with surprising candor that phone and cable companies "chose to delay improvements in broadband service to the Chattanooga area market."
If Chattanooga seems tangential to debates that are going on in Washington, D.C. and Silicon Valley, it's worth noting that the city does something unusual: it runs the broadband service available in its area. As the city's power authority says on its website, "Only in Chattanooga, Tennessee is 1 Gigabit-per-second Internet speed available to every home and business—over 150,000 of them—throughout the entire community."
Why is it doing this? Well, to attract businesses—the city's unemployment rate is 7.7 percent, well above the 6.2 percent national average—and to improve its network infrastructure, which previously had been served by a cobbled-together union of T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T's more interpid broadband arms. Nobody wanted to build the pipe necessary to fix the place up all the way out into rural Tennessee, so the city took on the task.
"Federal preemption is appropriate when state laws unduly interfere with municipal broadband," said Netflix, in its comments on the petition to overturn the Tennessee law.
It remains to be seen whether the FCC will agree but Wheeler has been dinged more than once as too soft on the cable industry and overturning these local laws would be a major blow to industry stalwarts like AT&T.