The question of whether state government can regulate internet service has surfaced at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The PUC will take up the matter this Thursday.
The state commerce department wants consumer internet complaints about Frontier Communications included in a PUC investigation of the company. The agency has received hundreds of complaints about Frontier, many concerning its internet service. The PUC plans a series of public meetings around the state to hear consumer comments on the matter.
But the state's telecommunications companies maintain the regulation of internet service is something only the Federal Communications Commission can do.
"The state is trying to over-reach. And trying to regulate broadband, which clearly has been staked out by the FCC," said Minnesota Telecom Alliance CEO Brent Christensen. The industry said the U.S. District Court in Minnesota has ruled that "information services" are not subject to state regulation.
The state attorney general's office has also filed comments with the PUC on the issue, saying it believes the PUC should accept internet complaints about Frontier.
"An attempt to narrow the scope of the investigation at this stage would hinder the ability of the Commission and other state government entities to hear from customers," the AG's office wrote.
It said the question of who can regulate internet service is something "that does not need to be resolved at this phase."
Frontier customers have told the PUC that their internet connection speed is often slow and undependable.
In a statement, Frontier Communications said it's cooperating with the PUC review of its performance. But the company said the investigation should be limited to Frontier telephone service.