Tag: "incumbent"

Posted July 27, 2009 by christopher

After winning the election, the Obama Administration announced that broadband networks would be a priority. True to its word, the stimulus package included $7.2 billion to expand networks throughout the United States. A key question was how that money would be spent: Would the public interest prevail, or would we continue having a handful of private companies maximizing profits at the expense of communities?

Creating the Broadband Stimulus Language

The debate began in Congress as the House and Senate drafted broadband plans as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

The House language on eligibility for stimulus grants made little distinction between global, private entities and local public or non-profit entities.

the term `eligible entity' means--

(A) a provider of wireless voice service, advanced wireless broadband service, basic broadband service, or advanced broadband service, including a satellite carrier that provides any such service;
(B) a State or unit of local government, or agency or instrumentality thereof, that is or intends to be a provider of any such service; and
(C) any other entity, including construction companies, tower companies, backhaul companies, or other service providers, that the NTIA authorizes by rule to participate in the programs under this section, if such other entity is required to provide access to the supported infrastructure on a neutral, reasonable basis to maximize use;

The Senate language clearly preferred non-profit or public ownership.

To be eligible for a grant under the program an applicant shall—

(A) be a State or political subdivision thereof, a nonprofit foundation, corporation, institution or association, Indian tribe, Native Hawaiian organization, or other non-governmental entity in partnership with a State or political subdivision thereof, Indian tribe, or Native Hawaiian organization if the Assistant Secretary determines the partnership consistent with the purposes this section

The final language, adopted by the Conference Committee and passed by both houses in February was a compromise. It favored a public or non-profit corporation but allowed a private company to be eligible only if the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Commerce found that to be in the public interest. In the final law an eligible...

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Posted July 22, 2009 by christopher

This article wraps up the 2009 efforts of private companies to pass what some have termed the Incumbent Protection Act - an effort by private companies to use the State Legislature to prevent communities from building the fast broadband networks in which the private companies themselves refuse to invest.

N.C. House Bill 1252 and Senate Bill 1004 would have placed a number of financial restrictions on local governments that seek to offer Internet and other telecom services, in the name of "leveling the playing field" between governments, which can borrow money more cheaply than private companies can, and private cable and telephone companies that offer similar services. The bill would have required municipal services to tack on to customer fees equal to the difference in the amount it would cost a private company to provide the service, and prohibited governments from "cross-subsidizing" the launch or operation of a system, a practice common in private industry.

Critics say municipal services already face rigorous financial scrutiny and that towns and cities go into the broadband business only when private industry chooses not to upgrade or build out infrastructure to increase the availability and quality of service. The bill could have effectively made North Carolina's local governments ineligible for federal stimulus money designated to stimulate the construction of broadband networks.

Oppose HB1252 Sticker

Fortunately, the fight is likely over for this year.

When the bill went before the House Public Utilities Committee May 6, more than 100 citizens, lobbyists, elected officials and members of the press attended. Supporters of the bill, rallied by the Americans for Prosperity, sponsors of the tax day "tea parties," wore red shirts to show their support. Opponents wore yellow stickers that said "Save NC Broadband."
Rep. Ty Harrell, D-Wake, and Rep. Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenberg, addressed the mounting controversy by moving to send the bill to committee for further study.

Study committees are often where bills go to die. Harrell says he does not intend to let the measure die wants it to have "a thorough chewing-on."

Unfortunately, the private companies will almost certainly press the issue at every opportunity in the future as they...

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Posted July 14, 2009 by christopher

Ann Treacy of Blandin on Broadband has covered the latest meeting of the Minnesota "Ultra High-Speed" Broadband Task Force. (Quotation marks used because the task force has dwelled on FCC-style 1990's broadband rather than the broadband experienced in our international peers.) The issues raised in this session are applicable to most of America.

Brian Redshaw, the city Administrator of Hibbing, describes some of the concerns of those living on Minnesota's Iron Range (located in Northern Minnesota) and how they attempted to solve their own problems. Unfortunately, the incumbent providers - Qwest and Mediacom - hypocritically sabotaged community efforts despite the fact that they have no plans to bring modern networks to the Range.

Ross Williams, a local businessman makes a great point: our lives are rich because of the investments made by the generation before us. As we make decisions about networks today, are we building infrastructure for future generations? I would respond that if we are subsidizing slow DSL, then we certainly are not.

Posted April 29, 2009 by christopher

It is duplicitous to suggest that the incumbents represent the “free market” against “government-subsidized” municipal networks. Incumbents are incumbents precisely because they have had the weight and resources of government to back them up for years. Furthermore, they have had backing from those levels of government - the federal and state - which are least pervious to direct participation by local residents. Municipal networks, funded by the public and accountable to the public, represent a balance to the domination of telecommunications infrastructure by huge corporations which have long enjoyed substantial government subsidy. Banning or restricting municipal networks will end this effort to create a level playing field.

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