Bells’ ‘War Against Consumers’ Tour Rolls into Pennsylvania

Today’s iteration of The Washington Post’s Filter column on technology contains the latest report from the frontlines of the Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) effort to suppress bandwidth access that does not trip a pay meter somewhere in their organization.

This time, the front is in Pennsylvania and the war is against municipalities offering Wi-Fi services. The lead combatant in this effort is Verizon Communications.

Here’s the relevant paragraph, which cites a Wall Street Journal article as its source:

The paper reported on recent efforts by Verizon Communications in Pennsylvania to lobby the Pennsylvania General Assembly, which “passed a bill with a deeply buried provision that would make it illegal for any ‘political subdivision’ to provide to the public ‘for any compensation any telecommunications services, including advanced and broadband services within the service territory of a local exchange telecommunications company operating under a network-modernization plan.’ Verizon is the local exchange telecommunications company for most of Pennsylvania, and it is planning to modernize the region using high-speed fiber-optic cable. The bill has 10 days for the governor to sign it or veto it. The Pennsylvania bill follows similar legislative efforts earlier this year by telephone companies in Utah, Louisiana and Florida to prevent municipalities from offering telecommunications services, which could include fiber and Wi-Fi.”

The Louisiana effort cited was the attempt last spring led by BellSouth to pass legislation which would have banned any municipal efforts to get into the telecommunications infrastructure or services businesses. The measure targeted the Lafayette Utilities System (LUS) fiber to the home plan which was then little more than a concept. Thanks to strong backing from Governor Kathleen Blanco, LUS and its allies were able to modify the bill so that it, in effect, became a road map for municipalities to enter the business from which BellSouth and Cox sought to bar them.

One can only hope that municipal broadband proponents have been in touch with LUS to learn about how this legislative jujitsu was executed.

Yes, Pennsylvania, the RBOCs can be beaten. If you want to learn how, come to Louisiana!


Free Press has a story from on the Pennsylvania fight, noting that cable giant Comcast (the largest cable provider in these United States) is also supporting the municipal broadband ban.