WATPA: FW: Senate Panel Blesses Community Broadband

From: Norm Jacknis <norm@jacknis.com>
Date: Thu Nov 29 2007 - 23:15:05 EST

Senate Panel Blesses Community Broadband
ws/article.php/3708306> Sean Gallagher

UPDATED: A Senate panel has approved legislation banning states' efforts to
prevent local governments from providing community broadband access.

The Community Broadband Act of 2007 would pave the way for cities to install
free Wi-Fi networks without being forced to contract through existing
commercial providers. A similar measure is moving forward in the House, and
both bills have broad bipartisan support.

The bill would reverse laws on the books in Pennsylvania and 13 other states
that prevent local governments from providing free or low-cost broadband
access to citizens in competition with commercial broadband services.

The Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee voted to forward the
bill, submitted by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.).

"Broadband access should be universal and affordable," Lautenberg said.
"Widespread broadband access would promote economic development, enhance
public safety and increase educational opportunities for millions of
Americans across the country. I applaud the committee's vote to support
towns and cities across the country in their efforts to offer faster, more
affordable Internet service."

In addition to prohibiting states from preventing "a public provider" from
offering broadband services, the bill also prohibits local governments from
discriminating against competing private providers.

It requires municipal broadband networks to comply with state and local
regulations of telecommunications providers, and requires public hearings
before local governments roll out broadband services.

The proposed legislation, co-sponsored by Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel
Inouye (D-Hawaii), as well as Senators Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Gordon Smith
(R-Ore.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Claire McCaskill
(D-Mo.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), would also encourage public-private
partnerships to provide broadband services.

The House version of the bill, sponsored by Reps. Frederick Boucher (D-Va.)
and Fred Upton (R-Mich.), was introduced in August in the House Energy and
Commerce Committee. It has yet to be referred out of the Telecommunications

Pennsylvania <http://www.internetnews.com/wireless/article.php/3442851>
attempted to restrict municipal broadband networks under pressure from
Verizon in 2004, when Philadelphia announced its plans for a citywide Wi-Fi

Verizon allowed the city to continue with its plans, but the Pennsylvania
legislation made it difficult for other municipalities in the state to
undertake similar projects without getting approval from regional
telecommunications companies.

In September, a coalition of community organizations and Internet companies,
including Google, Skype, EarthLink, and the American Library Association
mounted a letter-writing campaign to senators and congressmen to encourage
them to co-sponsor the measure.

"Community broadband networks offer the promise of increased economic
development and jobs, enhanced market competition, improved delivery of
e-government services, and accelerated universal, affordable Internet access
for all Americans," the letter read.

"Communities should be encouraged to step forward to do their part to ensure
the rapid deployment of broadband to all Americans, and they should have the
freedom to choose what makes the most sense for their citizens."

A Verizon spokesperson would not comment on the bill. However, Verizon is
backing a broadband "mapping" bill, forwarded to the House yesterday, that
would determine areas of the country that currently lack or are underserved
by broadband access.

That legislation would mandate a national inventory of broadband internet
access services, and direct federal policymakers to work with telecom
providers to identify areas in need.

"Getting broadband to as many people as possible, no matter where they live,
is an important policy goal," said Peter Davidson, Verizon senior vice
president for federal government relations, in a statement yesterday.

"Verizon applauds Chairmen [John] Dingell and [Edward] Markey, ranking
members [Bill] Barton and Upton, and other members of the committee for
putting together a much-improved, bipartisan broadband mapping bill that
focuses on something important to the American people and our economy."

Received on Thu Nov 29 23:15:16 2007

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