The Daily Yonder – January 23, 2017
By Craig Settles
Legislation proposed in Virginia and Missouri would tighten the noose that restricts local governments from creating broadband options. In Virginia, the bill comes from a state delegate with strong ties to the telecommunications industry and with ALEC, the national advocacy group that wrote similar laws for other states.
A Virginia state delegate who has received contributions from six telecommunications corporations has introduced a bill to place further restrictions on municipal broadband. …
In Missouri, it’s déjà vu all over again – and again
In Missouri, meanwhile, the state’s current anti-municipal network law, written in 1997, bans public entities from owning and providing telecom services. But it’s always been an implied or assumed ban, even though an exception for broadband was written into the bill. One Missouri city built a network without challenge, and Columbia two years ago planned to play the same “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
The Missouri Legislature has been making annual efforts since 2014 to ban muni broadband. This year’s entry is SB 186, which would prohibit retail or wholesale competitive service. By banning wholesale efforts, the bill would prevent a municipality from working with private-sector companies to supply broadband.
“SB 186 sets up onerous hurdles that threaten to sabotage a network in the early days, discouraging local communities from pursuing a chance to serve residents, businesses, and municipal facilities,” says Christopher Mitchell, director of Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). “The bill also dictates ballot language, establishes geographical limits on any local network, and clearly established that no funds from other municipal services can be directed toward a municipal network.”
More Virginia municipal broadband stories are contained in a report from the Institute for Local Self Reliance. Additional information on current state restrictions on publicly owned broadband available here and here.
It is hard to tell how the battles will pan out, but in Virginia and Missouri communities have a lot of fight and determination. There is a general feeling that there is too much riding on this battle to lose.