In Missouri, the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee has quietly held on to Sen. Ed Emery’s SB 186. The legislation is another bill handed off from big corporate providers and designed to squash municipal networks. If it looks familiar, it should - it’s identical to last year’s HB 2078, that made a dramatic run through the legislature only to be withdrawn at the last moment. SB 186 will have its first hearing on Tuesday, February 14th, at 10:00 a.m.
As with HB 2078, this bill expands already existing laws that discourage local investment and impinge on local telecommunications authority. Missouri’s rural areas already have difficulties obtaining high-quality Internet access and some rural areas have no access at all. SB 186 prevents local communities from using their own infrastructure to partner with private providers. Large corporate incumbents, fearing public private partnerships, want to ensure that they can protect their practical monopolies from both municipal networks and new entrants.
In late January, the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) organized a number of associations, advocacy groups, and private telecommunications companies who wanted to speak out against SB 186. They submitted a letter of opposition to the Chair and Members of the committee. The signatories described 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.”
Call To Kill
To stop the bill before it gains momentum in the Missouri General Assembly, the best tactic is to kill it in committee. You can contact the members of the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee and tell them they should not advance the bill. Because SB 186 is now in a committee that examines the powers of local government, point out that improving connectivity - no matter how it’s done - is a matter best left up to accountable local officials. After all, the people who live in a community are those who know the community best.
If any of the Senators represent you, be sure to let them know. Be brief, be direct, and be kind to the legislative assistants who work hard for you. Your message will go much farther.