Tag: "legislation"

Posted January 30, 2017 by lgonzalez

Even after constituent calls and emails, and a threat from Governor McAuliffe to veto her bad broadband bill, Del. Kathy Byron is trying to shove through her anti-competitive HB 2108. The legislation will prove fatal for local telecommunications authority if it passes. The revised bill is up for a vote in the House Labor and Commerce Committee on Thursday, February 2nd; Byron is Vice-Chair of the Committee.

Here's The New Bill; Same As The Old Bill

If you’re curious to see the text of the new draft, it is now available on Virginia’s Legislative Information System (LIS). If you’re expecting something better than the original text, you will be disappointed. This version holds on to provisions that Byron’s influential friends in the telecommunications industry need to intimidate and lock out competition.

The revised bill still dictates rules on pricing for municipal networks and imposes heavy-handed transparency rules that put any proposal at a disadvantage. The aim is to discourage potential private sector partners who may wish to work with local governments. The new draft maintains broad enforcement provisions, which large, anti-competitive providers exploit as a delay tactic to bury a publicly owned project before it even starts.

Like it’s predecessor, it’s painfully obvious that this version of HB 2108 is a AT&T sponsored tool to scare off any competition.

Another Bad Review

On Friday, the Virginia Pilot joined a growing number of state media outlets, local governments, companies, and industry associations condemning the bill. Like others across Virginia who want every option to improve connectivity, the Pilot recognizes that municipal networks an important possibility. They also recognize that large corporate providers, such as AT&T, obtain a certain amount of protection from legislators like Byron, which is reflected in the...

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Posted January 30, 2017 by lgonzalez

As bills in Virginia and Missouri state legislatures are up for review this year, take a few minutes to listen to Christopher Mitchell and Lisa Gonzalez discuss state preemption, past, present, and future in episode 10 of the Building Local Power podcast

John Farrell from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance talks to them about the power of lobbying at the state level and how large national providers aim to control the market by using state laws. We’ve seen it happen in about 20 states and now local authority advocates are fighting to prevent HB 2108 ("Byron’s Bad Broadband Bill") in Virginia and a repeat of last year’s battle in Missouri with SB 186. If those state restrictions are allowed to become law, better connectivity for rural communities will be even more difficult to achieve because municipal networks will be all but stamped out. 

“These big cable and telephone companies are against competition,” says Chris Mitchell. “For them, they’ve grown up in monopoly environments. They are opposed to private-sector competition and public-sector competition.”

During the interview, Christopher and Lisa share examples of cost savings, economic development, and improved quality of life in communities where the big providers could not justify investment. Learn more about the who, what, and why companies like AT&T, Comcast, and CenturyLink spend millions on lobbying efforts in state capitols.

Building Local Power Podcast

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This is episode 10 of the Building Local Power podcast, a series that shares the work of staff at the Institute and focuses on local initiatives. With the current state of affairs so uncertain at the federal level, taking action in your own community is more important than ever. New episodes air every other week.

Check out...

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Posted January 27, 2017 by lgonzalez

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam doesn’t want the public’s money to pay for publicly owned Internet infrastructure. He has no problem, however, writing a $45 million check backed by taxpayers and payable to the likes of AT&T in Tennessee.

"A Little Song, A Little Dance, A Little Seltzer Down Your Pants"

On Wednesday, Haslam introduced the “Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act,” another state sponsored handout to the national Internet Service Providers who have made countless broken promises to expand to rural areas. The bill contains some provisions dressed up to look like measures that make big strides for the state, and will be helpful, but it's not ground breaking.

The bill lifts existing state restrictions on electric cooperatives that may wish to offer retail Internet access to members. The state restrictions on co-ops are dubious anyway and could be challenged under federal law. For the state’s electric cooperatives that reach all over the rural areas, the bill is welcome, but communities near Chattanooga’s EPB gets the short end of the stick.

EPB, Chattanooga’s Municipal Electric Utility, has advocated for several years to expand beyond their service territory. Neighboring communities, such as Bradley and Polk Counties, need better connectivity because the national providers don’t consider their regions a good investment. Nevertheless, state law prohibits EPB from expanding to them and this legislation won't change that.

"Don't Confuse The Conversation"

State Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, where the local municipal network has jump started economic development and improved the quality of life, pointed out the problem in Haslam’s shell game legislation:

Bowling said the measure only goes halfway in removing regulatory limits that she said now limit fiber optic service in much of Tennessee "and keeps too many rural citizens from participating in the 21st century digital economy."

"I'm certainly glad that electric co-ops will be able to retail fiber services under this measure and I think that will be significant," she...

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Posted January 26, 2017 by lgonzalez

Governor Terry McAuliffe is one of a many voices that are speaking out against Del. Kathy Byron’s Bad Broadband Bill, reports the Roanoke Times. According to a spokesman for the Governor, the original text of the bill would have faced certain veto.

The bill was on the January 26th agenda for the House Labor and Commerce Committee, but Del. Byron chose not to present it after all. Instead, it will be on the February 2nd agenda.

The bill was altered before today’s hearing, but the changes still don’t make it worth passing. As it was before, HB 2108 remains the latest big telephone and cable lobbyists' attempt to restrict municipalities from exercising their own local authority. The purpose is to body-block any current or future competition from publicly owned networks and stop public-private partnerships. They want to maintain existing monopolies. 

Governor McAuliffe recognized it and his staffer Brian Coy told the Times via email:

“The Governor is working hard to expand access to broadband Internet across the Commonwealth,” Coy wrote. “That goal requires fostering competition, not stifling it.”

McAuliffe echoed the sentiments of a long list of experts, private companies, and associations who joined together and drafted a letter to the Chair and Members of the Committee. In the letter, they explained why HB 2108 would harm Virginia’s efforts to improve access to fast, affordable, reliable connectivity, especially in the rural areas.

Even those staunch free-market advocates are poo-pooing HB 2108. The Daily Yonder quoted conservative blogger Susan Sili about the bill:

“This is completely frustrating from a local perspective where we have spent years trying to convince citizens in Caroline [County] to vote for less government and free enterprise in a blue county. This kind of U-turn from our creed certainly isn’t helping.”

...
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Posted January 26, 2017 by lgonzalez

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.

"Harmful...Stifling...Hampering"

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...

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Posted January 25, 2017 by lgonzalez

"Byron’s Bad Broadband Bill" has been criticized from City Council meeting rooms, at Boards of Supervisors meetings, and from Mayors’ offices across the state. Last Wednesday, January 18th, opponents of the bill took their grievances to Richmond for a press conference hosted by the Friends of Municipal Broadband. In addition to several Delegates and Senators opposed to HB 2108, local officials and a representative from an Internet Service Provider appeared to describe why they believe the bill is bad for Virginia.

The News & Advance covered the press conference in which Del. Sam Rasoul described missed opportunities:

Some businesses pass on Roanoke Valley locations because company officials discover they can’t get internet service, Rasoul said. Then, there are other Roanoke businesses like the software company Meridium that want access to multiple service providers.

“Internet and access to high-speed internet is a basic human right now because it’s just that link to education, it’s that link to information, it’s that link to peoples’ livelihoods and that’s why we’re so passionate about it,” Rasoul said.

Nicholas Pascaretti, Executive Director of Eastern Shore Of Virginia Broadband Authority, described how municipal networks attract providers to rural areas where national companies won’t invest:

Scott Robertson, Executive Director and Secretary of the Rockbridge Area Network Authority (RANA), described incredible savings and access to unprecedented capacity in local schools in Rockbridge County:

Ray Ferris, Roanoke City Councilman and local attorney, describes HB 2108 as a shining...

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Posted January 25, 2017 by lgonzalez

On January 26th, one half hour after the House adjourns, the Virginia House Commerce and Labor Committee will hear HB 2108, known around our office as “Byron’s Bad Broadband Bill.” We encourage you to contact members of the committee to let them know that the bill is not good for bringing better connectivity to Virginia, especially in rural areas. It’s another piece of legislation written by big cable and telco lobbyists aimed at blocking competition.

If you live in Virginia or one of the Delegates on the Committee represents your district, be sure to mention that you vote. 

Members of the House Commerce and Labor Committee and their contact information are listed on the Committee website. They provide email and phone numbers all in one place.

This Bill...Not Our Kind Of Bill

As we noted when we first reported on the bill, Byron is Vice-Chair of this committee. We’ve also reflected on her position as Chair of the Virginia Broadband Advisory Council and why on earth she would introduce bills that are counter productive to the mission of the Council - to offer advice and solutions aimed at improving broadband access across the state. The chemistry between the citizen members of the Council and the Legislative members assigned to the committee call into question the reasoning behind the content of HB 2108. Phil Dampier recently wrote a compelling article on the situation in Stop the Cap.

Keep It Simple

The bill has been the subject of much derision in the local and national press, but if Virginia House Republicans are determined to test it in Committee, they should be prepared for constituent phone calls and emails. As a reminder, contact with Legislators about their bills are most effective when they focus on the content of the bill and...

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Posted January 25, 2017 by Nick

Ars Technica - January 25,2017

Google and Netflix join fight against municipal broadband restrictions

Written by Jon Brodkin

Google and Netflix joined a handful of advocacy groups and other companies lobbying against a proposed Virginia state law that would make it far more difficult for municipalities to offer Internet service.

As we previously reported, the "Virginia Broadband Deployment Act" would prohibit municipal broadband deployments except in very limited circumstances. For example, localities wouldn't be allowed to offer Internet service to residents if an existing network already provides 10Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds to 90 percent of potential customers. Even if that condition is met, municipalities would have to jump through several legal hoops before being allowed to build a network.

...

"A number of local governments have already passed resolutions condemning the legislative attack on their right to make local telecommunications decisions and we expect to see more," the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's Community Networks project wrote Monday. The 10Mbps/1Mbps speeds specified in the legislation are "reminiscent of antiquated DSL," the group said.

...

Read the full story here.

Posted January 24, 2017 by htrostle

Three more Virginia communities declared opposition to the proposed state legislation that would limit municipal networks. Nelson County, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach all have spoken out against the bill, HB 2108. We expect more communities to speak out over the next few weeks.

Last week, we reported that Franklin County and the City Council of Roanoke passed resolutions condemning Byron's bill. Roanoke is concerned that the bill will undo all the time, effort, and investment put into the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority's open access network; Franklin County is considering ways to improve local connectivity with private partners.

Most of the resolutions and statements so far have passed with unanimous support. The Norfolk County’s Board of Supervisors are set to vote on a resolution this Tuesday, January 24th.

Statements Support Internet Access, Condemn HB 2108

The resolution from Virginia Beach specifically pointed out that the bill undermines the goals of Virginia’s Broadband Advisory Council. Del. Kathy Byron is the author of the bill and the chair of that council. 

“WHEREAS, the City Council of Virginia Beach supports the mission of the Broadband [Advisory] Council (“BAC”) as organized under Va. Code 2.2-2699.3 and its purpose of expediting deployment and reducing the cost of broadband access in the Commonwealth; however, passage of HB2108 and the Act would produce results that directly conflict with this purpose;”

Read all of the statements opposing HB 2018 here:

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Posted January 23, 2017 by lgonzalez

Private sector companies, trade organizations, and local authority advocacy groups went on record last week in opposition to HB 2108, a Virginia bill that would severely restrict local communities’ options to improve connectivity. They joined together in a letter to the Chairman of the Virginia House Commerce and Labor Committee, there the bill is now waiting for hearing, Republican Terry J. Kilgore.

Joining Local Communities To Oppose

A number of local governments have already passed resolutions condemning the legislative attack on their right to make local telecommunications decisions and we expect to see more. Del. Kathy Byron, a legislative darling of big cable and DSL providers in Virginia, introduce the bill earlier this month. Local and national media outlets immediately caught the story, and constituents have contacted Byron's office to express their concern. 

This letter from leaders in the industry underscored their concern that potential partners feel the bill is a death knell for public-private partnerships:

It would interfere with the ability of private companies to make timely sales of equipment and services to public broadband providers. It would deny private companies timely access to advanced networks over which they could offer business and residential customers an endless array of modern products and services. It would also impair economic and educational opportunities that contribute to a skilled workforce from which businesses across the state will benefit. 

The authors of the letter find the slow speeds required in the bill especially troubling for rural communities. The bill sets the standards at 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload - speeds reminiscent of antiquated DSL:

Communities with data speeds limited to the HB 2108 target of 10/1 megabits cannot realistically hope to attract or retain modern businesses or provide their residents, particularly their young people, a reason to stay in them. These communities will be condemned to economic stagnation or...

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