North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Federal Communications Commission seeking to overturn the FCC’s decision to allow the City of Wilson to expand its community broadband network service known as Greenlight. The state has been “aggrieved,” according to Cooper.

But a broadband group labeled the suit a “waste” of taxpayer money.

Cooper stated in the suit that the FCC “unlawfully inserted itself” between the state and “political subdivisions” such as communities.

The City of Wilson was not surprised that North Carolina sued.

“We are aware of the suit,” said Will Aycock, who manages the Greenlight network. “We knew that this would be an ongoing process.”

The Attorney General’s has not contacted Wilson about the suit, he added.

Cooper filed the suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth District.

The complaint was filed “this week by attorneys in our office on behalf of their clients in the General Assembly,” the Attorney General’s office Public Information Officer Noelle Talley told WRAL TechWire.

The FCC voted on March 12 in favor of Wilson and the City of Chattanooga, Ten. which had sought FCC approval to maintain and grow municipal-built broadband networks.

FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler said “That dog won’t hunt” as the commission voted to override North Carolina law which restricts such networks.

In the suit, Cooper wrote:

“In that Order, the FCC preempts North Carolina ‘s statutory law and provisions …. governing municipal provisioning and operation of broadband communications services. Despite recognition that the Sate of North Carolina creates and retains control over municipal governments, the FCC unlawfully inserted itself between the State and the State’s political subdivisions.

“North Carolina, as a sovereign State … is aggrieved and seeks relief …”

In concluding his letter, Cooper added: “North Carolina respectfully requests that this Court hold unlawful, vacate, enjoin, and set aside the {FCC] Order, and provide such additional relief as may be appropriate.”

An organization that supports community broadband ridiculed Cooper’s suit.

“Attorney General Cooper must not realize the irony of using state taxpayer dollars to ensure less money is invested in rural broadband, but we certainly do,” said Christopher Mitchell, the directory of Community Broadband Networks at the Minnesota-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “State leaders should stand up for their citizens’ interests and demand good broadband for them, rather than fighting alongside paid lobbyists to take away those opportunities.”

The group accuses telecommunications and Internet provides in North Carolina of not providing wide-spread high-speed access in the state.

“Rural areas in North Carolina already suffer from some of the slowest speeds in the nation because the big telecom giants see no financial reason to connect them,” the Institute said. “The FCC ruling will help communities that will never be covered by these corporations to finally have Internet access beyond dial-up service.”

FCC ridiculed N.C. law

“As they say in North Carolina, that dog won’t hunt,” Wheeler declared in the FCC decision.

The FCC believed it had the authority to override state law, but reaction was quick. U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican, launched legislation in Congress to fight the FCC.

Wilson, which proclaims itself as North Carolina’s “Gigabit City” in reference to the ultra-high speed Internet that fiber enables, hailed the FCC’s decision. However, the city said it had no immediate plans for expansion at the time, and Aycock said in an interview Friday that there has been no change.

The “historic decision now enables Wilson and other North Carolina municipalities to provide the Gigabit broadband infrastructure and services that North Carolina and America need in order to remain competitive in our emerging knowledge-based global economy,” Aycock said when the decision was announced.

“Wilson filed this petition not with immediate plans to expand into its rural neighboring communities, but to facilitate the future advancement of its critical Gigabit fiber-optic infrastructure over the long term.”

The North Carolina League of Municipalities also has embraced the FCC ruling, noting that the league’s 540 members had opposed the initial N.C. bill which was lobbied for by private sector cable providers.

Wilson does not expect to incur any legal costs related to the North Carolina suit, Aycock said. “We told our story,” he explained.