Bills, legislation, and ordinances

Wilson, NC fighting for right to offer broadband

Wilson, North Carolina decided a couple of years ago to build it's own municipal fiber network after it got tired of begging incumbent providers for better services and getting turned down. Now the fight is being taken to the state legislature, where the incumbent providers are trying to get laws passed to prevent local governments from getting involved in telecom efforts but to also prevent local governments for applying for broadband stimulus funds. This is also happening in Pennsylvania.

Community news and projects:

The return of anti-competition legislation

Broadband Reports says that two states, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, are considering legislation to make it more difficult for communities and regions to invest in broadband infrastructure. As usual, the legislators sponsoring such bills seem to be saying, incorrectly, that such efforts are "anti-competitive." Oddly enough, they are right in the wrong way.

Broadband Stimulus Webinar

I'll be part of a Webinar on broadband stimulus funding, and my portion will address the kind of planning that may be needed for community broadband grant requests. Here is the link for more information; note that registration is required (but the seminar is free).

Broadband Information:

Will Pennsylvania ban community broadband?

According to Broadband Reports, a bill is being considered by the Pennsylvania legislature that would make it virtually impossible for communities in that state to use stimulus funds for any kind of broadband infrastructure--even in areas that are unserved or underserved by incumbents.

$2 billion for broadband cut from stimulus bill

Regardless of what you think about the stimulus spending, cutting funds for broadband seems not well thought out. The U.S. is behind many other countries in part because government subsidies have been used heavily in other countries to accelerate availability of broadband.

Broadband does not take "years"

Senator John McCain, on Fox News Sunday, said, "...some of the projects and others that you just mentioned, $6 billion for broadband and internet access. That will take years." He was being interviewed about the stimulus package. Given careful oversight and a sharp focus on communities that have already done planning work, a lot of homes could get high performance wireless and fiber connections in 2009 and 2010. Most of the work would be done by private sector firms, which would create jobs.

Broadband stimulus package should be thoughtful

Wired has a thoughtful article about the potential (good and bad) for a broadband stimulus initiative. There is much speculation that the incoming adminstration will, among other spending initiatives, provide funds for broadband deployment.

Congress says "Yes" to community broadband

Both houses of Congress have passed the Community Broadband Act of 2007. The bill fixes a defect in the 1996 Telecom act that says "any entity" may offer telecom services. The meaning of "any" was challenged repeatedly in state level lawsuits, and some misguided state legislatures went even farther and made it illegal for local governments to start telecom service offerings.

Could Internet taxes show up?

A 1998 ban on taxing services provided over the Internet is due to expire next month. Congress has three options: make the tax ban permanent, extend the ban for several more years, or start raking in a whole new source of cash.

If Congress decides to tax Internet access, everyone's access provider bills (dial up, DSL, cable modem, wireless, Blacksberry, etc.) could jump as much as fifteen to twenty percent.

Here we go again...

Senator Ted "the Internet is made of tubes" Stevenson is at it again, calling for "universal" filtering of the Internet to protect us all from pornography. The Internet pornography problem is a serious one, and deserves serious attention, but Senator Stevens is not making a serious proposal.

Knowledge Democracy:

Grappling with technology

An Illinois legislator has introduced a bill to outlaw "social networking" sites in Illinois libraries and schools. The bill is extremely broad, and probably will never be passed, but it is an interesting exercise in lawmaking.

Knowledge Democracy:

Forida votes for paper

The state of Florida is ready to toss electronic voting machines in the trash and go back to paper. The state plans to use paper ballots, where the voter makes a mark in an oval next to the candidate's name. The ballot is then scanned optically, just like the aptitude tests that have used this system for decades. The paper/optical scanning approach provides an audit trail that can be read manually if necessary but also provides for rapid vote counting by automated equipment.

Local franchise fee fight brewing

The Roanoke Times has a front page article on a possible challenge to a recent FCC ruling that federalizes cable franchise fees. I could not find a link to it online, but it is an AP report, so it should start showing up in the search engines later today. I have been warning that local government rights were under attack for almost two years. The FCC wants to take away the ability of local government to manage right of way.

Franchises and big boxes

AT&T is in fights with several communities over it's "U-verse" data service. It used to be called "Project Lightspeed," but the company dropped that name, probably when people noticed that the system actually delivered services over copper (speeded up DSL).

Social networking ban: good or bad?

A bill has been approved by the House of Representatives that requires K12 schools and libraries that receive Federal funding to block social networking sites, so that minors cannot access them.

Making ISPs snoop for the government

The FBI continues to lobby to try to force ISPs to snoop for the government. This is something the federal agency has been asking for for years, and has tried to get Congress and the FCC to go along with the plan.

What the FBI wants is for every ISP to provide private access to an ISPs entire network so that the FBI can just log in and snoop at its convenience. In theory, court orders would be required, just like wiretaps, but to have private backdoors is to invite abuse.

Knowledge Democracy:

USA Today on Net Neutrality

USA Today has a useful summary of net neutrality, with a two column, side by side comparison of the issues and the players. Congress continues to squabble over this issue, with what appears to be a notable lack of understanding of what is involved.

Knowledge Democracy:

Our lawmakers explain the Internet

If it wasn't enough to be known as the Senator who wanted the bridge to nowhere, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska has probably secured a permanent place in history, right along with Al "I invented the Internet" Gore, as the Senator who said this:

Knowledge Democracy:

Congress continues to pander to the telecom industry

This blog entry from Harold Feld is a little dramatic, but not much, considering how high the stakes are. Congress, with special attention to Senator "Bridge to Nowhere" Stevens from Alaska, has crafted a bill cleverly called the "Community Broadband Act of 2006." This little piece of wolf in sheep's clothing purports from its name to be pro-community, but basically prohibits communities from making direct investments in broadband.

Don't confuse franchise fees with right of way rights

South Carolina legislators have passed a bill that creates statewide franchising. What distresses me is that two distinct issues have been mixed up together in this legislation. Franchise fees have been lumped together with right of way. Franchise fees, as originally conceived, no longer make sense when content providers don't have to have a physical presence in the community.

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