I don’t normally spend time on my blog shilling for particular bills, but I was asked today to sign a petition for the Community Broadband Act of 2015, and I’m going to do it.
As most of you know, there are still lots of communities in the United States that don’t have access to broadband technology, including my beloved Western Massachusetts. Part of the reason for that is that it’s too expensive for the big telecom companies to lay optical fiber or otherwise provide the infrastructure that’s necessary for broadband service. So, some enterprising municipalities have sought to fund their own broadband only to be stymied by — wait for it — the big telecom companies. Yes, the very same companies that won’t provide broadband access also won’t allow these municipalities to provide their own broadband access.
So we get stories like the Tennessee city of Tullahoma, which could not offer broadband access beyond city limits because of a 1999 Tennessee law that prohibits cities that operate their own Internet networks from providing access outside the boundaries where they provide electrical service. Janice Bowling, a 67-year-old grandmother and Republican state senator from rural Tennessee, wanted to change that and introduced a bill in February to allow them to expand.
At a meeting three weeks after Bowling introduced Senate Bill 2562, the state’s three largest telecommunications companies — AT&T, Charter, and Comcast Corp. — convinced the legislature to relegate the measure to so-called “summer study,” killing the bill for the year.
There are many other provisions like this in other states that have similar impact.
Enter the Community Broadband Act of 2015, the text of which you can read here. As described in the bill summary, the legislation:
Bars states or local governments from prohibiting or inhibiting states, local government agencies, entities affiliated with state or local agencies, or Indian tribes from providing telecommunications services or advanced telecommunications capabilities to any person or any public or private entity. Prohibits government providers of public telecommunications services from favoring themselves over competing providers in the application of regulations, ordinances, public rights-of-way, or permitting requirements. Directs local governments or affiliates intending to provide public telecommunications services to consider public-private partnerships. Requires local governments or affiliates, before providing telecommunications services to the public, to provide public notice and opportunities for public input and private-sector bidding. Provides an exemption from the prohibition on local governments favoring themselves in the application of regulations, and from the requirement to provide public notice and private bidding opportunities, during an emergency declared by the President, a governor, or an authorized elected local official.
I’m totally in support of that. If you’re in support of it as well, I urge you to sign the petition as well.