ISPs continue to buy state laws preventing towns and cities from making their own, local broadband infrastructure decisions. An effort in Wyoming to pass legislation that would award state grants to help rural Wyoming communities get high-speed internet instead got hijacked by CenturyLink and Charter Spectrum lobbyists, resulting in a bill getting passed this week that simply blocked towns and cities from being able to deploy their own broadband networks.
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The replacement legislation (pdf) successfully pushed by ISP lobbyists blocks funding for communities to establish their own public broadband networks – if those companies already offer service anywhere inside the community.
The replacement bill gives ISPs effective veto power over which programs get funded by the state, letting them hamstring potential competitors, whatever form those competitors might take. Such tactics aren’t new: more than twenty-one different states have passed protectionist, ISP-written laws intended to retain the status quo: a notable lack of overall competition.
Community broadband networks are often conceived by communities that have spent the better part of a decade frustrated by high prices, slow speeds, and substandard customer support. Instead of derailing these efforts by improving service quality, coverage and support, ISPs often find it simply easier to quite literally write and buy state telecom law.
Cheyenne Mayor Marion Orr was understandably disgusted by how easy it was for CenturyLink and Charter to buy a state law.
“I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn industry completely re-wrote proposed broadband legislation to their favor as a ‘substitute bill’ in legislative committee today,” Orr wrote on Facebook. “The substitute bill is substantially different than the original bill. And it wasn’t posted online or anywhere for anyone except insiders to have access to. CenturyLink and Spectrum are bullies. It’s wrong, and they are hurting Cheyenne and other Wyoming communities from gaining affordable access.”
Whether you agree or disagree with towns and cities building their own broadband networks, the choice to do so should be theirs and theirs alone; not governed by executives half a world away whose only real goal is to keep the broadband industry as uncompetitive as possible to boost revenues.