Tag: "virginia"

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 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 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.

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"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.

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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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Posted January 20, 2017 by lgonzalez

Conflicts of interest have been front and center in federal politics this election cycle, but there is another place where we see a grey cloud of impropriety: the Virginia General Assembly. More specifically, above the head of Republican Delegate Kathy Byron, who last week introduced HB 2108, the “Broadband Deployment Act.” 

Policy Payola?

We noticed Byron is inclined to accept sizable campaign donations from big cable and DSL corporate friends, but Phil Dampier’s excellent article on Stop the Cap! took a deeper look at her dubious connections. Tracing campaign dollars from state legislators who sponsor these bills back to companies like Verizon ($36,100 for Byron), Comcast ($3,000), AT&T ($9,250), and CenturyLink ($3,500) is no surprise. Finding similar connections to their state lobbying groups such as the Virginia Cable Telecommunications Association is also typical (a generous $15,000). For people like Dampier and us, it's kind of par for the course.

Campaign contributions call into question a legislators motivations but Byron has other connections that her constituents, colleagues in the General Assembly, and other Virginians need to examine as they consider HB 2108 and her role as a policy maker in state government:

From Stop the Cap!:

Since 2008, Stop the Cap! has reviewed industry-sponsored municipal broadband ban bills, and none to date have illustrated the level of conflict of interest we see here. We call on Virginian officials to carefully investigate the ties Ms. Byron has to cable and phone companies and the ethical concerns raised from her involvement in key state bodies that can make or break rural broadband in Virginia. Byron increasingly exposes an agenda favoring incumbent phone and cable companies that just happen to contribute to her campaign — companies she seems willing to protect at any cost.

The section of her bill detailing requirements for community providers seeking to expand requires them to ask permission from an entity known as the Virginia Broadband Advisory Council, which Byron disturbingly chairs. If the...

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Posted January 20, 2017 by htrostle

Last week, Virginia State Delegate Kathy Byron introduced a bill that, if passed, will cripple attempts for municipalities to improve local connectivity. HB 2108, the “Virginia Broadband Deployment Act, imposes specific requirements on municipal networks that would greatly limit whether communities could offer Internet access or work with private sector partners.

The City of Roanoke and Franklin County wasted no time in unanimously passing resolutions to oppose the Virginia bill.

Franklin County Formally Opposes HB 2108

The Franklin County Board of Supervisors swiftly drafted their resolution in order to take it to the press conference in Richmond the next day. Reprinted below is the text of the Franklin County Resolution: 

WHEREAS, broadband access and reliability are essential to citizens, businesses, and non-profits in Franklin County; and

WHEREAS, citizens, businesses, and non-profits desire faster and more reliable broadband speeds; and

WHEREAS, areas of Franklin County lack broadband access; and

WHEREAS, we seek to maximize County policy and funding options to improve broadband access and reliability; and

WHEREAS, Franklin County seeks to protect the proprietary information of local businesses;

NOW BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, we the Franklin County Board of Supervisors do hereby formally oppose House Bill 2108, the Virginia Broadband Deployment Act.

City of Roanoke: "We Say No Way"

The City of Roanoke Council unanimously passed a similar resolution condemning the bill. Several council members specifically discussed the impact of such legislation on the new Roanoke Valley Network and on their community’s Internet access.

The Roanoke Times covered the discussion in detail....

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Posted January 19, 2017 by lgonzalez

When Delegate Kathy Byron introduced HB 2108, cheekily titled the “Broadband Deployment Act,” she might have not have expected so much attention from local and national reporters. Local media outlets, especially in areas directly threatened by the bill, are alerting constituents about threats to improve local connectivity. National news is also covering the story, describing how Virginia communities that can't get high-quality connectivity from national providers could fall victim to big cable and DSL lobbyists if HB 2108 passes. Constituents are taking notice, but the legislative session is just getting started in Virginia.

Local Media Reaching Local Constituents

The Roanoke Valley is especially vulnerable to the perils of HB 2108. After a contentious process, the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority (RVBA) completed an open access fiber-optic network to meet the needs of local businesses, schools and libraries, and other facilities. Byron’s bill would make it practically impossible for the RVBA to expand to nearby counties by preventing them from obtaining high-quality connectivity and the benefits that accompany it. Without the ability to serve more customers, the RVBA faces a tenuous future. Smith told WSLS TV 10:

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“It hurts the area. It hurts us as the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority, but more importantly it hurts across the Commonwealth of Virginia, its ability to be able to serve and use technology to serve economic development,” said Frank Smith.

The Roanoke Times quickly reported on the bill when Byron introduced it, noting that it would stifle the RVBA’s attempts to encourage competition, an economic development driver:

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“It may serve the incumbent [providers] to reduce competition,...

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