Libby Beaty Memorial Fund

Last June, Libby Beaty, the Executive Director of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisers (NATOA) passed away. Libby was a tireless fighter for local government and the public interest, and someone I was pleased to regard as a friend and frequent ally at the FCC.

NATOA has now set up an education fund for her two children, Jonathan and Nicolas. To quote from the announcement:

Contributions to the fund can be mailed to the Libby Beaty Memorial Education Fund, c/o NATOA, 2121 Eisenhower Avenue, Suite 401, Alexandria, VA 22314. Checks should be made payable to the “Libby Beaty Memorial Education Fund” (please DO NOT make checks payable to NATOA) and we thank you for your support and donations, in remembrance of Libby and all that she embodied as NATOA’s Executive Director.

I hope that everyone who follows this field and wants to honor the memory of a worthy advocate for an important cause, will consider making a contribution.

Stay tuned . . .

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 . . . .

Continue reading

My speech from the Community Wireless Conference

On March 31-April 2, I attended the Second National Summit for Community Wireless. It was an amazing event. The energy was unbelievable. My one regret was that I agreed to do two panels. Because the panels were so long, that meant doing two thirds of the day talking when I wanted to be attending other things and learning what was going on.

And there is plenty going on in Community Wireless. Community wireless can include a local government, or “muni wireless” component, but it doesn’t have to. At it’s best, community wireless is about empowering a local community to use the tool of wireless intra-net and inter-net to reenforce everything good about the community. If the community owns the network, and uses it to create educational, social and other opportunities the members of the community value, then community wireless works real well.

I got to give the final plenary talk. I spoke from bullet points, and got really worked up emotionally while speaking (my voice actually broke on the last few lines). My attempts to recreate my speach feel overly wordy and intellectual compared to what I actually said. But I think it is still a valuable exercise to try to capture what I said and put up somewhere people can see. Hopefully, it will do some good.

Remember, we can change the world by talking.

Continue reading

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 . . . .

Continue reading

Quick tag to Ensign Bill

For those who care about public access (or PEG channels). The bill keeps these (up to four channels, rather than a broadband set aside as some folks have negotiated for), and tells the state authority to delegate some local government entity to have authority to ask for the channels (you only get ’em if your local government asks for ’em). The bill also keeps a franchise fee of up to 5%, but the fee must be cost based rather than negotiate (i.e., the local government has to show how much it spends on digging up the streets and associated public rights of way issues).

Jim Baller, all around smart guy and lawyer extrodinaire for municipalities and municipal networks, has his take on the anti-muni provision of the Ensign Bill here.

Stay tuned . . .

A Big Win in TX, But It's Just Round One, a group opposed to the anti-muni bill in TX, reports that the anti-muni provisions of the legislature’s gift package to SBC (the local baby Bell) has been stripped. But hang on to your seats folks, because it goes to the floor next week and SBC is fighting hard.

Continue reading

Tales of the Sausage Factory: All Quiet on the W. Va Front

Live from the W.Va Voter Protection Project in Wheeling, W. Va. The big news is- no news. So far, no one has called to complain about any sort of voter supression or inappropriate behavior.

No word on other states. W. Va was likely to be quiet, given that the local government is Dems not Republicans (unlike FL and OH). Still, it’s good to be bored. As they said in the training: we’re in the recount prevention business.

Stay tuned . . . .