Deja Vu All Over Again in Pennsylvania.

Some of you may remember Pennsylvania as the state where the battle to save muni broadband began when, around Thanksgiving 2004, the PA Legislature passed a law preventing local government from“competing with the private sector” by prohibiting state or local government from offering broadband services unless the local government solicited service from the private sector and got turned down. While that sucked from the perspective of the citizens of PA, it did help kick off the massive fight that blocked anti-muni broadband legislation in other states, such as Indiana and Texas.

Now, those whacky worshipers of the Gods of the Marketplace in the PA Legislature are at it again! As reported by Craig Settles, the Hon. Patrick Browne (R-Senate District 16), Chairman of the PA Senate Finance Committee, and several lesser acolytes of the Absolutist Free Market Faith have introduced SB 530. This bill would prevent the State of PA or any local government therein from taking any stimulus money for purposes that would “compete with the private sector.” Indeed, if I read it correctly, it would prevent PA or local government from ever engaging in any activity that “competes with the private sector” unless it was (a) related to higher education, (b) maintaining public parks, (c) “necessary services” defined as “those services that are critical for human safety and health, including fire departments, emergency services and medical services;” and (d) any current activity, but that activity may not be expanded.

More below . . . .

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Down to the wire in Indiana

The press has not generally covered the fight in Indiana over their telecom dereg bill, known in the Indiana Senate as SB 245. What coverage there has been has primarily focused on deregulating phone rates or elimination of local franchising of video offerings (i.e., the new telco video products will not need local franchsies). Few stories have observed that Chapter 35 of SB 245, as drafted, would hamstring the ability of local governments to either provide broadband services directly or do so through partnerships with others.

The version of SB 245 that passed the Senate included minor modifications to Chapter 35. In the Indiana House of Representatives, the House eliminated both Chapter 35 and the state franchising provisions. The bill has now gone back to the Senate.

I want to urge folks in Indiana, and elsewhere if you do business in Indiana or otherwise have a connection to the state, to make your views known to the Senate. In I hope people and organizations will tell the Indiana State senators that anything that impedes the flexibility of localities to create effective broadband strategies, such as Chapter 35, cannot be good for the people of Indiana.

I have included a draft letter below. Please feel free to print out or in any other way use it to help stop Chapter 35 of SB 245.

This is also a good time for me to stress that, as usual, I speak only on behalf of myself and not my employer or Wetmachine.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Election Day Results for Muni Broadband

As part of the off year elections, 32 communities in Iowa voted on referenda on whether to explore having a muni broadband system. 17 of the 32 voted to go forward, with 15 voting not to explore the option. Given that Mediacom and Qwest, the incumbent cable and telco companies spent about $1.4 million to defeat the measures, while proponents of the measure spent only a few thousand dollars, that’s pretty good.

Meanwhile, developments in Michigan and Pennsylvania below.

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How SBC Lost TX- And What It means More Broadly

Sorry to all, especially John, for being on an unintended hiatus. Got lots poppin’ at work and at home.

In a down to the wire fight, SBC suffered major defeat in Texas on two major legislative initiatives: one to prohibit municipal broadband, the other to remove local franchising requirements for their new fiber systems. In response, SBC Alum and wholly owned subsidiary Pete Sessions (R-TX), to introduce a new federal anti-muni bill, reconfirming my view that most major corporations behave astounding like 6 year old children.

How the Bell companies blew it represents a fascinating case study. Contrary to what a few folks have suggested, it was not an “accident”. In fact, it may, possibly, suggests some interesting things about how progressive politics (by which I do not mean “Democratic Party” I mean genuinely progressive regardless of party) may work for the next few years. My lengthy random musings below . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory: Ohio the New PA? I don't think so.

It appears to be my day to pick on poor Esme at the truly amazing and wonderful Muniwireless website. Recently, she published this article on Ohio House Bill 591. Esme and others think it is the next in a series of bills like the recent HB 30 signed into law by Governor Rendell. Me, I’m not so sure. My analysis of Ohio’s 591 (and why, even if stupid, it is not evil) below.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory: MAP Summer Fun Kit

Whose up for a summer of social activism on media and telecom policy? A show of hands please? What if I told you it would only take about 15 minutes using the equipment you are using to read this webpage?

I’ve pegged four FCC proceedings that will benefit enormously from an injection of real world information. My pitch letter for why you should care, along with links to summaries of the proceedings and instructions on how to file, given below.

Stay tuned . . .

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