As SB 186 sits patiently in committee, advocates of better broadband from the private and public sectors are banding together to share their thoughts on the bill. They believe that the bill will stifle attempts to improve connectivity throughout the state. In a recent letter to the Chair and members of the the Missouri Senate Local Government and Elections Committee, they laid out the other reasons why SB 186 should not advance.
The Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) organized the letter and signed on with 14 other companies and associations. It wouldn’t be the first time - Missouri is an all too common battle ground in the fight to protect remaining potential for municipal networks and public private partnerships.
They describe the bill as:
“…[H]arming both the public and private sectors, stifling economic growth, preventing the creation or retention of jobs around the State, particularly in rural areas, hampering work-force development, and diminishing the quality of life in Missouri.”
This is the third time in as many years that Missouri State Legislators have tried to push through legislation that would benefit large cable and DSL incumbents. The goal of the bill this year as before is to lock out any possibility of competition now or in the future. Last year, HB 2078 saw some drama when its author tried to slip in the foul language within the text of a public safety bill that had nothing to do with telecommunications. Luckily, sharp advocates were paying attention and had already educated Members who were on the conference committee. Those in favor of local authority stripped out the language and when anti-muni Members tried to amend it into a third bill, the author moved to have it removed under threat of filibuster.
Don't Make A Rough Situation Worse
Missouri already imposes restrictions on municipal networks. In the letter, the signatories refer to local authority as a key in solving Missouri's poor connectivity problems:
These are fundamentally local decisions that should be made by the communities themselves, through the processes that their duly elected and accountable local officials ordinarily use for making comparable decisions. They should also be able to use their own resources as they deem appropriate to foster economic development, educational opportunity, public safety, and much more, without having to comply with the restrictive bottlenecks that SB 186 would impose.
Signing on to the letter:
- Atlantic Engineering
- CTC Energy & Technology
- Fiber to the Home Council
- Internet Association
- National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA)
- Next Century Cities
- Telecommunications Industry Association
- Ting Internet
- Utilities Technology Council
To The East
In recent weeks, Virginia's State Legislature has been humming with activity surrounding another attack on municipal networks and local authority. Delegate Kathey Byron, who in addition to Chairing the state's Broadband Advisory Council, has received considerable campaign donations from incumbents who author bills like this, has introduced HB 2108. Her "Virginia Broadband Deployment Act" has attracted the ire of local officials, local media, and potential private sector partners because it's another anti-competitive bill that's good for big incumbents but bad for anyone who wants fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. Constituents have picked up the phone and let Byron know that they don't want her bill - they want local authority.
As the fight heats up in Virginia over Del. Byron’s Bad Broadband Bill, advocates need to keep their attention in both states while also keeping an eye out for potential attacks in other state capitols. Until the gavel comes down for the last time, it’s important to stay vigilant in Virginia, Missouri, and elsewhere.
Check out the full text of the joint letter of opposition to the Missouri Committee Members.