We learned a lot today about the anti-competition bill (SB 304) in Kansas to limit Internet network investments. Ars Technica’s Jon Brodkin discovered the source of the bill, the Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association:
That’s a lobby group with members such as Comcast, Cox, Eagle Communications, and Time Warner Cable. The bill was introduced this week, referred to the Committee on Commerce, and scheduled for discussion for Tuesday of next week.
That hearing will now be delayed as the cable lobbyists strategize on a bill that less transparently serves only their interests. As usual, we see the cable lobbyists claiming that municipal networks use taxpayer dollars, despite the reality that most do not.
Much of what I see in Kansas points to Time Warner Cable being behind this – a lame attempt to stop Google Fiber using lobbying power rather than innovating and investing. However, the bill has tremendously negative implications for rural Kansas because local governments are often the only entities that care if their communities have the Internet access they need in the modern economy.
It stretches credulity to think Kansas would pass a bill that would prevent Google from expanding its network in the region. But we have seen a number of states (ahem, North Carolina) pass cable-authored bills that prevent communities from building fiber optic networks if they have anything faster than dial-up available in even part of town.
The cable lobby would consider it a win if they can still push a bill through that would kill municipal networks while allowing approaches like Google Fiber and Wicked (in Lawrence) to expand.
Fortunately, Google has a history of opposing restraints on local authority to build networks and it is part of a business coalition opposing this bill. As with most Americans, that coalition believes any decision on whether a network is a wise investment should be made locally, not in Topeka or in DC.
Craig Settles’ had a Chanute official on the Gigabit Nation audio show to discuss the bill and impact on rural Kansas:
And finally, Chanute created a video about this bill: