Tag: "preemption"

Posted May 19, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Newcomers to Cullen Hoback’s recent HBO blockbuster documentary on the QAnon conspiracy are in for a treat. Four years ago, the filmmaker released a documentary on broadband access in North Carolina, and how huge ISPs have employed lobbyists to ghostwrite state laws to protect their monopoly territory and extract community wealth at the expense of fast, affordable Internet access delivered via publicly owned and operated networks.

Free for the first time on Vimeo, Do Not Pass Go: The Battle for Broadband charts the consequences of this phenomenon - present in 17 states across the country - for one small town called Pinetops (pop. 1,300), situated 50 miles east of Raleigh. 

Hoback’s film shows the consequences of North Carolina’s 2011 state law (HB 129). HB 129 has successfully stymied the formation and expansion of municipally owned broadband networks over the state for the last decade, leaving hundreds of thousands of families stuck living with just one option (and oftentimes a poor one) for their home Internet access. 

This was exactly the reality for Pinetops, until the nearby town of Wilson’s municipal network, Greenlight, brought affordable and future-proof service to the town. That is, before the cable lobby pounced and forced Wilson to stop sell its assets and stop offering service in that community. While Greenlight continues to provide fast, affordable service where it is able, but residents in other North Carolina communities aren't so lucky.

Despite these struggles, North Carolina still hasn’t been able to shake the influence of out-of-state firms in preventing local solutions to the broadband gap, even though it ranks 18th for access in the country. No...

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Posted May 14, 2021 by Jericho Casper

Update: State Governor Jay Inslee signing two bills amending the same section of state law at the exact same time forced the Washington Secretary of State to seek judicial guidance on which bill will take precedence over the other in the face of legal challenge. It is still unclear if the two bills are compatible; however, in these instances the bills should be filed in the order in which they passed the State Legislature, with the bill filed last taking legal precedence. The Public Broadband Act passed the State Legislature one day after S.B. 5383; therefore, the Public Broadband Act should prevail over the Senate bill (S.B. 5383).

Yesterday, following weeks of anticipation, State Gov. Jay Islee signed the Public Broadband Act (H.B. 1336), removing all restrictions on public broadband in the state of Washington, according to the bill’s primary sponsor, State Rep. Drew Hansen, D-23. This critical leap forward in Washington drops the number of states with laws restricting community broadband to 17.  

Rep. Hansen’s tweet announcing the passage of H.B. 1336:

The bill grants public entities previously restricted by statute from offering retail telecommunications services the unrestricted authority to provide Internet services to end-users. This includes Public Utility Districts (PUDs) and district ports, as well as, towns, second-class cities (defined as those with populations of 1500 or more which have not adopted a city charter) and counties, currently not operating under Washington’s Optional Municipal Code. (Washington’s charter counties, first-class cities...

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Posted May 11, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

The mayors of nine cities in eastern North Carolina have had enough of Suddenlink's poor service. WRAL reports that they've called on the state legislature to overturn HB 129 and let them build their own networks after years of unreliable connectivity:

“[HB 129] forbade any kind of municipality from establishing broadband as one of their utilities,” Rocky Mount mayor Sandy Roberson said.

Roberson said Internet service in Nash and Edgecombe counties had been a problem for years.

There have been so many complaints against the area’s major provider, Suddenlink, since the COVID-19 pandemic began that the mayor of Tarboro called for the state Attorney General to investigate the company in January.

Months later, area leaders have started to take matters into their own hands, with the mayors of nine cities across Eastern North Carolina petitioning the state legislature to allow them to set up their own fiber networks.

The call to action comes on the heels of the mayors of Tarboro, Rocky Mount, New Bern and Washington calling on the state Attorney General to investigate the company.

Head over to WRAL to read the whole story.

Posted May 11, 2021 by Jericho Casper

Snapshot

Florida Legislature rewrites utility pole bill to include language backed by municipal electric utilities

North Carolina’s County Broadband Authority Act includes clause drawing criticism from electric co-ops

Oklahoma Governor signs mapping bill, vetoes measure adding Tribal representation to state broadband council

The State Scene

Florida

A Florida bill, which included provisions that would have forced Florida’s municipal electric utilities and their ratepayers to pay private Internet Service Providers’ utility pole make-ready costs, was significantly revised before passing the State House by a unanimous vote of 115-0 on April 28.

H.B. 1239, which no longer includes the make-ready costs provisions, initially read like a regulatory wishlist for incumbent cable monopolies until it was redrafted to become a legislative package aimed at improving broadband deployment across the state. The revised bill now heads to the State Gov. Ron DeSantis for approval.

The final version of the bill establishes additional duties for Florida’s Office of Broadband, creates a state broadband grant program, and requires the Office to conduct mapping of unserved and underserved areas of the state -- a significant deviation from the version that was first introduced in February.

The initial version was sponsored by the Florida Internet and Television Association, of which Charter and Comcast are members, capitol insiders noted. Proponents of the initial language argued that lowering the costs municipal electric utilities charge private ISPs for attaching to their utility poles was a necessary prerequisite to attract private investment in rural communities, and would have required electric utilities statewide to provide private ISPs with access to their poles at a capped rate. The stripped-out portion of the bill had also included tax exemptions on the majority of equipment private ISPs purchased.

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Posted May 4, 2021 by Jericho Casper

Snapshot

Nebraska Senate rejects amendment supporting municipal broadband in spending plan

Michigan Governor vetoes bill granting private ISPs property tax exemptions

Montana, Iowa and Maine channel Rescue Plan funds towards new broadband grant initiatives

 

The State Scene

Nebraska

The Nebraska Senate approved a plan to spend $40 million over the next two years on expanding rural access to high-speed Internet by a unanimous vote on Tuesday, but only after an amendment to L.B. 388 that would have allowed municipalities to offer retail broadband services was rejected.

State Sen. Justin Wayne introduced the amendment, saying that “broadband should be considered a critical infrastructure need and that private telecommunications companies have not stepped up to serve the whole state,” the Lincoln Journal Star reports.

Wayne urged Nebraska Senators “to look to Nebraska's history of public power as a model, as well as to the example of other states that are allowing cities to offer broadband.” The amendment ultimately failed by a vote of 20-24. Wayne assured fellow Senators that he will reintroduce the amendment in the future. 

The bill marked the first time the Nebraska Legislature has suggested using state tax dollars to fund broadband deployment. As it was submitted to Gov. Pete Ricketts for his signature, the bill would annually allocate, until funds run out, $20 million in grants to projects that increase access to high-speed broadband in unserved regions of Nebraska. It would prioritize projects in regions which lack access to Internet service with speeds of at least 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download/3 Mbps upload. Grant recipients would be required to deploy networks capable of providing service of at least 100/100 Mbps within 18 months. 

 

Michigan

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed H.B. 4210 on April 14, a bill which would have granted...

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Posted April 28, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Cortez is the latest community in the state of Colorado to decide whether to opt out of SB 152, which has since passage in 2005 has preempted local authority and prevented communities from building publicly owned telecommunications infrastructure and offering retail service.

The community (pop. 8,500) is located in Montezuma County in the southwest part of the state, just north of Mesa Verde National Park. As first reported in The Journal at the end of January and subsequently approved unanimously by the City Council in the middle of February, a ballot measure later this spring will give city residents the option to restore the municipality’s ability to offer retail Internet service to business and households themselves.

From the ballot flyer provided to residents by the city:

A voter-approved exemption from SB 152 would restore local independence and ability to evaluate all possibilities for next generation broadband services in the City of Cortez and our communities. An exemption supports local choice and options, allowing citizens to make the best decisions based on the needs of our own individual communities, without raising taxes.

It further explains the realities of the limitations imposed by SB 152:

Without such approval, the law limits the ability of Colorado local governments to provide a wide spectrum of services, including: free Internet service in city libraries, parks and community centers; leveraging government infrastructure and partnering with private businesses to provide affordable and high-speed Internet service throughout the entire community; [and] direct provision of broadband services by municipal governments where needed.

A Chance to Build on Past Success

Currently, the city operates the Cortez Community Network, an open access fiber network which started as an I-Net before transitioning to connect businesses with triple...

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Posted April 23, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Every week we write about the municipalities and the cooperatives that come together to bring high-quality, affordable, locally accountable Internet access to those who need it most. And it seems as if we're at a watershed moment as a nation: community solutions to broadband are poised to have their big day. 

One of the big questions that remains is who Congress and the White House will listen to in the coming weeks and months as national legislation moves through the D.C. crucible: their constituents, many of whom have spent the past year struggling to work and live on too-expensive, too-slow, or nonexistent broadband connections forged by a broken marketplace, or the monopoly ISPs gearing up for the fight of their lives to snuff out even the specter of competition so they can continue to extract profits from cities and towns large and small across the country.

ILSR's Sean Gonsalves and Christopher Mitchell have an essay out in The American Prospect which outlines both the upcoming fight and the future at stake, as the Biden Administration's American Jobs Plan positions itself to return a level of parity to local solutions in expanding broadband access and promote competition.

Read an excerpt below, but check out the whole piece here:

28 million households have only one Internet service provider offering at least the minimum broadband speed. Many of the supposed competitors are phantoms. And the number of households in areas with more than one ISP offering gigabit speed service is paltry. Only two million households have that choice, or maybe many fewer—the FCC doesn’t really know at any granular level.

Today, Internet access has been largely monopolized by a few big cable companies, even as voice and television services have become more competitive. Government officials have generally responded by seeking to remove barriers to competition, rather than embracing more deliberate pro-competition policies to better shape the markets. But that may be coming to an end.

When President Biden announced his plans for broadband in the American Jobs Plan currently being crafted, he declared his intention to end all that malarkey . . . Taking a page from FDR’s stunningly successful electrification effort that centered on cooperatives, Biden has centered nonprofit municipal and cooperative business models...

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Posted April 12, 2021 by Jericho Casper

Though voting was highly conflicted and debates lasted late into Sunday night, H.B. 1336, an act granting public entities unrestricted authority to provide telecommunications and Internet services to end-users, scraped through the Washington State Senate by a vote of 27-22 on April 11. 

If State Governor Jay Islee signs H.B. 1336, Washington will have removed its barriers to municipal networks, leaving just 17 states with deliberate barriers to local Internet choice. “We’re fired up around here,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Drew Hansen, D-23, in an interview. “What a huge deal this is. It undoes 20 years of bad state policies which restricted local governments from offering broadband.”

Washington’s charter counties, first-class cities, and cities operating under Washington’s Optional Municipal Code already have the power to construct telecommunications networks and offer Internet access services to their residents without third-party business overseeing network management operations.

Hansen’s bill would give this authority to the public entities currently restricted by statute from offering retail services. This includes Public Utility Districts (PUDs) and district ports, as well as, towns, second-class cities (defined as those with populations of 1500 or more which have not adopted a city charter) and counties currently not operating under Washington’s Optional Municipal Code. 

Hansen said this about the development:

BREAKING: Wash. Senate just passed my Public Broadband Act (HB1336). Thanks to the parents, teachers, students, public utility districts, tribes, activists, 1000+ people signing in support (!) and more. WE did this; amazing team effort. Public Broadband Now!!!

Washington broadband activists are rallying behind H.B. 1336, as the bill is sure to introduce innovative, community-based Internet access solutions across a state whose rural inhabitants largely have one cable provider...

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Posted April 6, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

On Episode 9 of Connect This!, hosts Christopher Mitchell and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Kim McKinley (Chief Marketing Officer, UTOPIA Fiber) and Doug Dawson (President, CCG Consulting) to talk about the recently signed American Rescue Plan Act, which has the potential to funnel an unprecedented level of funding to communities which can be used for Internet infrastructure.

The group talks about the different buckets of money that will become available and how cities, counties, and states might use them. They discuss the ways that communities can use the federal funds to reduce risk for local projects and push them forward, create partnerships with public organizations and private firms, and what local officials need to do to ensure that they are ready when the money starts flowing to effect long-term positive change.

Watch via this link, or watch below.

Subscribe to the show using this feed

Email us at broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show. 

Posted April 5, 2021 by Jericho Casper

A pair of bills making the rounds through Florida’s state legislature are an attack on the state’s urban municipal electric utility ratepayers to the financial benefit of big cable monopolies, under the guise of expanding rural broadband.

H.B. 1239 and S.B. 1592 read like regulatory wishlists for Florida’s big Internet service providers. Word around the capitol is that the bills are heavily influenced by Charter Spectrum, the major incumbent cable Internet provider in the region (insiders also noted in an interview that it was sponsored by the Florida Internet and Television Association, of which Charter and Comcast are members).

H.B. 1239/S.B. 1592 would require municipal electric utilities to provide private companies with access to their poles at a capped rate, though the cost of attaching new telecommunications infrastructure differs based on size, shape, and weight. Florida’s municipal electric utilities, and their ratepayers, would be burdened with any additional costs that surpass the capped rate. 

The bills would further require electric utilities to reengineer utility poles to accommodate broadband providers’ attachment requests within 90 days of receiving them. In some instances, municipal electric utilities would be forced to cover the full costs of pole replacements, rather than the new attacher.

At ILSR, we are concerned that make-ready policies do discourage competition and we have encouraged streamlined access and consistent, fair rates to ensure Internet service providers can pursue efficient deployment. However, this bill would force electric ratepayers, including residents and local businesses, to shoulder more of the burden for private firms like Charter Spectrum and AT&T with the latter avoiding paying their fair share of attachment costs. 

H.B. 1239/S.B. 1592 are moving quickly through Florida’s House and Senate, with each having three committees of reference under their belt. As Florida’s legislature wraps up the fourth week of a 60-day session, many are fearful some version of...

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