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Communication Research and Practice


Edited By Adrienne Shaw and D. Travers Scott

This volume brings together a range of papers that fruitfully engage with the theme of the 2017 Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, held in San Diego, California: Interventions. Here "intervention" points to a range of communication practices that engage with a political event, social phenomena, industrial or socio-cultural practice, in order to alter and disrupt events and the norms and practices that contribute to their occurrence.  Interventions prohibit events from proceeding in a "normal" course. Interventions approach or critique practices and phenomenon resulting from tensions or absences occurring in: events, structures, (institutional governmental, media industry), discourses, and socio-cultural and subcultural events. Intervention presents the opportunity to explore boundaries, assumptions and strategies that appear to be different or irreconcilable, viewing them instead as possibilities for productive engagements. Communication interventions—in both research and practice—insert insights from diverse voices, marginal positions, emerging organizational practices and digital technologies, to broaden and enrich dialogue. Interventions bring complex reframings to events and phenomenon. Interventions seek to alter a course and effect changed practices in a range of spheres: governmental and social institutions, cultural and nongovernmental groups; industry and organizational life, new media and digital spaces, socio-cultural environments, subcultural groups, health environments, affective and behavioral life, and in everyday life.

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8. Anatomy of a Failed Intervention: The FCC Revisits Municipal Broadband (Ryan Ellis)


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8. Anatomy of a Failed Intervention: The FCC Revisits Municipal Broadband


On February 26, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to preempt state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that, in the FCC’s view, harmfully restricted broadband competition (FCC, 2015e). It was a striking—if brief—intervention. For years, the FCC supported the ability of states to effectively place limits on municipal broadband services. In this new order, however, the FCC changed course and interpreted the Telecommunications Act of 1996 in a manner that would allow for the preemption of certain state restrictions. This was a significant shift. The order had the potential to impact laws in over a dozen states and, the FCC hoped, transform the U.S. broadband market. The FCC’s intervention was, however, short lived: In Tennessee v. FCC (2016), the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the FCC’s preemption order and dealt a serious setback to the FCC’s larger ongoing efforts to promote access to open, neutral, high-speed broadband service.

This brief chapter examines the failed FCC intervention in municipal broadband. It considers two related questions: (1) Why did the FCC change its position and turn to support municipal broadband efforts after historically supporting state-backed limits on municipal efforts? (2) Why did this reversal ultimately fail? Beginning to consider these straightforward and (even) simple questions offers a window into the changing political economy of broadband services—offering...

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