Tag: "legislation"

Posted May 3, 2017 by lgonzalez

Today in the Maine Legislature, the Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology voted unanimously to stop LD 1516, a bill that would restrict local telecommunications authority. After Tuesday's compelling testimony, when it was time for a Wednesday vote, LD 1516’s sponsor moved the bill be shelved.

Engaging Testimony

On Tuesday, May 2nd, the Committee of Senators and Representatives met to listen to testimony on the bill. We’ve provided audio of the public hearing.

South Portland, Islesboro, the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council, and Rockport all sent experts with knowledge about developing public projects to testify in opposition to the bill. Representatives from GWI (the ISP working with several local communities that have invested in their own Internet infrastructure), the Maine Municipal Association, and the Mayors’ Coalition also testified against LD 1516.

Communities where publicly owned fiber is already improving local connectivity provided stories of how they tried unsuccessfully to work with incumbents. Page Classon from Islesboro described how incumbent proposals could be described as, “You pay for it, we own it, we charge you what we charge everyone else.” LD 1516 requires local referendums for such investments and Classon balked at taking such a proposal to the voters.

In South Portland, the city paid for construction of its open access fiber-optic network with general fund reserves. The language in LD 1516 restricts communities to funding through revenue bonds but South Portland uses its network to offer free Wi-Fi and to improve connectivity for municipal facilities. Under LD 1516, they would not have been able to make the investment.

Rick Bates from Rockport testified that the bill would force municipalities to contend with restrictions that legacy providers will never face and how those restrictions will not solve the problem of connecting rural Maine. Bates also took the opportunity to point out that organizations such as the Taxpayer Protection Alliance relies on misinformation and incorrect data, such as their erroneous assertion that Rockport has debt for its FTTH project.

... Read more

Posted April 27, 2017 by lgonzalez

Earlier this week, we learned that a bill in the Maine House of Representatives had been introduced that would steal local telecommunication authority from communities working to improve their connectivity. LD 1516 / HP 1040 was assigned to the House Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee and is scheduled for a hearing on May 2nd at 1 p.m.

No Barriers...Yet

Maine is a mostly rural state that doesn’t draw much investment from national cable and telephone companies, so in the past few years local folks have started taking steps to improve Internet access for themselves. Their efforts have gotten the attention of the big corporations that fear competition and, since Maine doesn’t have restrictions on municipal networks, it appears to be one of the next targets. Rep. Nathan Wadsworth’s bill imposes a number of restrictions that threaten to derail current or proposed projects to bring better connectivity to several Maine communities. 

The bill is deceivingly titled “An Act To Encourage Broadband Development through Private Investment,” but it will discourage any new investment that may attract new entrants to Maine.

Let Them Know What You're Thinking

If you want to contact members of the committee and tell them that this bill will discourage investment, rather than encourage it, contact information for all the members is available here. The best time to stop a bill is early in committee. If one of these elected officials represents you, be sure to let them know.

Posted April 25, 2017 by lgonzalez

Maine is the latest battleground for local telecommunications authority. A bill in the state’s House of Representatives threatens to halt investment in “The Pine Tree State” at a time when local communities are taking steps to improve their own connectivity.

"I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means"

Rep. Nathan Wadsworth (R-Hiram) introduced HP 1040; it has yet to be assigned to a committee. Like most other bills we’ve seen that intend to protect the interests of the big national incumbent providers, this one also has a misleading title: “An Act To Encourage Broadband Development through Private Investment.” Realistically, the bill would result in less investment by discouraging a whole sector - local communities - from making Internet infrastructure investment. 

Large national companies have thus far chosen not to invest in many Maine communities because, especially in the rural areas, they just aren’t densely populated. In places like Islesboro and Rockport, where residents and businesses needed better connectivity to participate in the 21st century economy, locals realized waiting for the big incumbents was too big a gamble. They exercised local authority and invested in the infrastructure to attract other providers for a boost to economic development, education, and quality of life.

Not The Way To Do This

If HP 1040 passes, the community will first have to meet a laundry list of requirements before they can exercise their right to invest in broadband infrastructure.

HP 1040 contains many of the same components we see in similar bills. Municipalities are only given permission to offer telecommunications services if they meet those strict requirements: geographic restrictions on service areas, strict requirements on multiple public hearings including when they will be held and what will be discussed, the content and timelines of feasibility studies, and there must be a referendum.

The bill also dictates financial requirements regarding bonding, pricing, and rate changes. Municipalities cannot receive distributions under Maine’s universal service fund.

As one of the remaining states... Read more

Posted April 14, 2017 by lgonzalez

When state legislators in Tennessee recently passed the Broadband Accessibility Act of 2017, tech writers quoted our Christopher Mitchell, who pointed out that the proposal has some serious pitfalls.

Christopher's statement appeared in several articles:

"Tennessee taxpayers may subsidize AT&T to build DSL service to Chattanooga's [rural] neighbors rather than letting the Gig City [Chattanooga] expand its fiber at no cost to taxpayers. Tennessee will literally be paying AT&T to provide a service 1,000 times slower than what Chattanooga could provide without subsidies."

Motherboard

Motherboard noted that the Tennessee legislature had the opportunity to pass a bill, sponsored by Senator Janice Bowling, to grant municipal electric utilities the ability to expand and serve nearby communities. Nope. Legislators in Tennessee would rather pander to the incumbent providers that come through year after year with generous campaign contributions:

logo-motherboard.jpgTo be clear: EPB wanted to build out its gigabit fiber network to many of these same communities using money it has on hand or private loans at no cost to taxpayers. It would then charge individual residents for Internet service. Instead, Tennessee taxpayers will give $45 million in tax breaks and grants to giant companies just to get basic infrastructure built. They will then get the opportunity to pay these companies more money for worse Internet than they would have gotten under EPB's proposal.

The Motherboard reporter quoted Bowling from a prior article (because, like the movie "Groundhog Day," she keeps finding herself in the same situation year after year):

"What we have right now is not the free market, it's regulations protecting giant corporations, which is the exact definition of crony capitalism," she said.

TechDirt Gets Personal

... Read more

Posted April 12, 2017 by Nick

Tennessee Legislature Passes Broadband Accessibility Act, Delivers Hollow "Victory"

While Governor Haslam's Signature Legislation Sounds Great, AT&T Will Be Laughing all the Way to the Bank

 

Contact:

Christopher Mitchell

christopher@ilsr.org

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - Late yesterday, the Tennessee Legislature officially sent Governor Bill Haslam's signature legislation, the Broadband Accessibility Act of 2017, to his desk. Unfortunately, this bill is more about making taxpayer dollars accessible to AT&T than ensuring rural regions get modern Internet access.

"What we have on one side is a taxpayer-funded subsidy program, and on the other we have a subscriber-based model," says Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. "The tragic thing is, AT&T is a taxpayer subsidized monopoly in rural Tennessee that only has to provide a service far slower than the definition of broadband. Locally-rooted networks like Chattanooga's EPB not only offer nation-leading services but have tremendous community support."

With this bill's passage, the Tennessee General Assembly will likely not pass any other broadband legislation during this session. The Broadband Accessibility Act won't improve Tennessee's rating as 29th in Internet connectivity, but it will do a great job of lining AT&T's pockets. As we've tracked throughout the session, there are a number of bills worth supporting that would actually increase connectivity and allow municipalities to take part in their own broadband future.

Mitchell is deeply frustrated with this situation: "Chattanooga is the only city on this planet that has universal access to 10 Gigabit symmetrical Internet access. It is a stunning achievement and Tennessee taxpayers may subsidize AT&T to build DSL service to Chattanooga's neighbors rather than letting the Gig City expand its fiber to neighbors at no cost to taxpayers. Tennessee will literally be paying AT&T to provide a service 1000x slower... Read more

Posted April 6, 2017 by lgonzalez

When Alabama State Sen. Tom Whatley from Auburn spoke with OANow in late March, he described his bill, SB 228, as a “go-to-war bill.” The bill would have allowed Opelika Power Services (OPS) to expand its Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) services to his community. On Wednesday, April 5th, his colleagues in the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee decided to end the conflict in favor of AT&T and its army of lobbyists.

The final vote, according to the committee legislative assistant, was 7 - 6 against the bill. She described the vote as bipartisan, although the roll call isn’t posted yet, so we have not been able to confirm.

According to Whatley:

“AT&T has hired 26 lobbyists to work against me on that bill. It really aggravates me because I have boiled one bill down to where it only allows Opelika to go into Lee County. It cuts out the other counties.”

Whatley has introduced several bills this session and in previous legislative sessions to allow OPS to expand beyond the state imposed barriers to offer services in Lee County. Alabama law doesn’t allow OPS, or any other municipal provider, to offer advanced telecommunications services outside city limits. SB 228 would allow Opelika and others (described as a “Class 6 municipalities”) to offer services throughout the counties in which they reside. A companion bill in the House, HB 375, is sitting in the House Commerce and Small Business Committee.

Rep. Joe Lovvorn, who introduced HB 375 agrees with Whatley:

“If it doesn't make sense for a large corporation to go there, that's OK that's their choice,” he said. “But they don't have the right to tell, in my opinion with my bill, the city of Opelika they can't serve them either.”

AT&T’s lobbyists aren’t the only big... Read more

Posted March 30, 2017 by Nick

Press Release: Legislation Introduced in the U.S. Senate to Promote Local Internet Choice

The "Community Broadband Act" is Boosted by Senators Concerned with Competition 

Contact:

Christopher Mitchell

christopher@ilsr.org

612-545-5185

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - Earlier this week, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Community Broadband Act alongside fellow Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Angus King (I-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). We at the ... Read more

Posted March 29, 2017 by lgonzalez

West Virginia rural communities struggle with access to broadband but a bill in the state legislature is taking some first steps to encourage better connectivity. HB 3093 passed the House with wide support (97 - 2) and has been sent on to the Senate for review. The bill doesn’t appropriate any funding for Internet infrastructure projects around the state, but adopts some policies that may help local communities obtain better connectivity.

Revenue Neutral And Popular

The state is facing a $500 million budget deficit and lawmakers don't have the appetite to appropriate finds for Internet infrastructure projects. As in most states, policy bills do well during times of financial strife. Elected officials still want to do what they can to encourage better broadband so, according to at least one lawmaker, the revenue neutral nature of the bill has contributed to its success in the legislature. Delegate Roger Henshaw, one of the bill's co-sponsors, told Metro News:

“Notice this is a revenue-neutral bill,” Hanshaw said. “That’s in fact one of the reasons we’re rolling it out now. We have other bills here in both the House and Senate that are not revenue-neutral bills that were on the table for consideration.

“But with the clock ticking on us, it became clear that we probably ought to be looking at options to advance service that didn’t even have the possibility of a financial impact. This bill does not.”

Check out the 3-minute interview with Hanshaw on Soundcloud.

The Broadband Enhancement Council

West Virginia’s Broadband Enhancement Council was created in a previous session and receives more authority and responsibility under HB 3093. They are tasked with the authority to, among other things, gather comparative data between actual and advertised speeds around the state, to advise and provide consultation services to project sponsors, and make the public know about facilities that offer community broadband access. 

HB 3093 briefly addresses the creation of the “Broadband Enhancement Fund," and addresses how the funds should be spent. For now, the fund remains dry... Read more

Posted March 28, 2017 by lgonzalez

Last week we shared an alert from Fight for the Future (FFTF) regarding the Senate vote on data protection. You’ve probably heard by now that the vote passed, which means the measure moved to the House. FFTF sent out a follow up with important information about that vote, that’s happening TODAY:

Congress has scheduled a vote TUESDAY to eliminate Internet privacy rules and allow ISPs to sell your data to advertisers without your permission. It already passed the Senate. This is our last chance to stop it.

Just last week, the Senate voted to gut internet privacy rules that prevent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from selling your sensitive personal information to advertisers without your consent.

The measure passed the Senate by only two votes. It was close, and there was significant public outcry which means we still have a chance to stop it.

Now the bill moves to the House of Representatives, and we just got word that they scheduled a vote on it TUESDAY. 

They’re trying to ram it through quickly without discussion or debate. We need to stop them.

Call Congress right now. Tell them to vote NO on repealing the FCC broadband privacy rules.

[FFTF] will connect you with your lawmakers and give you a simple script of what you can say. Here’s the number: (415) 360-0555

Even creepier, they’ll be able to install software on your phone to track you, and inject undetectable “cookies” into your Internet traffic to record everything you’re doing online.


If this bill passes the House, companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T will be able to constantly (and secretly) collect our online activity and sell our browsing history, financial information, and real-time location, and sell it to advertisers without our permission.


Call this number and FFTF will connect you directly to your representatives: (415) 360-0555

 

Posted March 24, 2017 by lgonzalez

New Hampshire has made strides in bringing better connectivity to unserved areas with projects like New Hampshire Fast Roads, but for years one factor has held them back: state law limitations on municipal bonding for Internet infrastructure. Once again, a proposal to change the law is in the state legislature.

SB 170 - It's Simple

SB 170 proposes to eliminate the one provision in New Hampshire law that has prevented municipalities from bonding for Internet infrastructure - the requirement that the infrastructure can only serve properties where there is no existing service. By blocking access to funding, the requirement has prevented projects that might bring service to whole communities when small pockets of service already exist in those communities.

The House companion bill, HB 191, passed the Science, Technology and Energy Committee but died when brought before the full House for a vote. The bipartisan vote against the bill was 193 - 168, emphasizing that the issue of connectivity is not related to political party.

SB 170 was heard in the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee in early February and, even though a number of individuals and organizations from communities in effected towns spoke on its behalf, a motion was presented to kill the bill. We’re happy to report, however, that the motion failed and the bill was rereferred to the same committee. It’s been sitting there ever since. In other words, it’s still alive, but it may not be picked up again unless committee leadership feel motivated to do so.

Tell Them, "It's About MY Hometown"

This proposal has seen the inside of New Hampshire’s General Court several times since we first reported on state bonding bills back in 2011. The measure appears to have gained momentum and with more constituent support, this particular piece of progress could become law. It may or may not be too late for SB 170 this session, but remember that legislation often... Read more

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