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Federal court blocks FCC’s attempt to expand public broadband

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A federal appeals court said on Wednesday the U.S. Federal Communications Commission could not block two states from setting limits on municipal broadband expansion, a decision seen as a win for private-sector providers of broadband internet and a setback for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Cities in Tennessee and North Carolina had sought to expand municipal broadband networks beyond current boundaries, but faced laws forbidding or placing onerous restrictions on the expansions.

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The FCC voted 3-2 in 2015 to issue an order seeking to pre-empt those state laws, saying a 1996 law required it to remove barriers to broadband investment and that the municipalities wanted to expand service into areas with little or no internet service.

Wheeler criticized the decision that “appears to halt the promise of jobs, investment and opportunity that community broadband has provided in Tennessee and North Carolina.”

He said since 2015, “over 50 communities have taken steps to build their own bridges across the digital divide. The efforts of communities wanting better broadband should not be thwarted by the political power of those who, by protecting their monopoly, have failed to deliver acceptable service at an acceptable price.”

Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said that “rather than wasting its time on illegal efforts to intrude on the prerogatives of state governments, the FCC should focus on implementing a broadband deployment agenda to eliminate regulatory barriers that discourage those in the private sector from deploying and upgrading next-generation networks.”

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USTelecom, the trade group that represents internet service providers including AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc, praised the decision as “a victory for the rule of law.”

The group said the FCC should “concentrate on eliminating federal regulatory impediments to innovation and investment – where there remains to be much that can and should be done.”

The city of Chattanooga, Tennessee’s municipal electricity provider since 2009, has offered high-speed broadband internet service to residential and commercial customers in its 600-square-mile service area. About 63,000 subscribe to the service. Residents in neighboring communities have asked to use the service.

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Wilson, North Carolina in 2005 constructed the backbone of a fiber-optic network connecting all city-owned facilities that was expanded to a municipal broadband network now known as “Greenlight.”

The city offers phone, internet and cable services which it says are cheaper than its private-sector competitors. The city also provides free Wi-Fi service to its entire downtown area and each of the top seven employers in Wilson is a customer. Individuals in five neighboring counties have also sought to join.

The FCC has noted that companies in Tennessee, including Amazon.com Inc and Volkswagen AG, use the service in Chattanooga.

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WATCH: Corey Lewandowski goes down in flames when faced with his own lies

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Much to the chagrin of the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, Democrats allowed staff to ask questions of Corey Lewandowski. Republicans had done the same thing during the questioning of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford when she testified during the Senate hearing for then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

When faced with his own words, Lewandowski was forced to admit that he lies on television constantly. Committee staffer Barry Berke showed clips of Lewandowski on cable news shows saying that there was nothing he was afraid of talking about because he knows he never did anything wrong. He told hosts that he had no intention of declaring his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Yet, when faced with questions about

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‘Really, really damaging’: CNN legal analyst breaks down how the Lewandowski hearing was a disaster for Trump

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President Donald Trump, by all accounts, loved his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski's performance in the House Judiciary Committee testimony on Russia and obstruction of justice — as did many of the grandstanding Republicans at the hearing like ranking member Doug Collins (R-GA).

But as Lawfare Institute general counsel and CNN legal analyst Susan Hennessey stated on "The Situation Room," the hearing was actually incredibly damning to the president.

"Lewandowski was performing for the president," said political analyst Gloria Borger. "He was performing for Republicans in the state of New Hampshire. If he decides to run for the Senate. And Republicans did get an opportunity today ... to sort of shove it back to the Democrats and say, look, you guys, Barack Obama knew about the Russian meddling, why didn't you tell us."

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Corey Lewandowski was ‘trapped’ by Democrats — he should have declared the Fifth: Ex-US Attorney

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Former U.S. Attorney John Flannery told MSNBC that top aide to President Donald Trump, Corey Lewandowski, was trapped by Democrats during his testimony Tuesday.

During a panel discussion as the hearing continued, Flannery explained that Lewandowski should have pleaded the Fifth Amendment privilege because he ultimately trapped himself.

"I don’t think he was wily and effective and I thought he wore down toward the end," Flannery explained. "Several of the members got elements of the crime of conspiracy. And what people forget is that you don’t have to succeed in a conspiracy. And we have Trump asking him basically to kill the investigation by converting [Jeff] Sessions to their side and he’s told this but he doesn’t stop there. He does overt acts he writes down what the president wants Sessions to hear, he makes an appointment with Sessions, but sessions doesn’t show up, we don’t know if there’s any side conversation there. He puts the document in a safe and then he arranges for someone else to give it to Sessions. Then he has another meeting with Trump."

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