It is time for another installment of our legislative overview. With a little less than three weeks left in the session some bills are moving forward and others have effectively been abandoned. By far the most important bill left undecided is the state-wide cable franchise bill. Repeal of the Local Government Fair Competition Act, a theme early in the session is now effectively dead for this session.
Here is your updated list of muni-related telecom bills.
Repeal or anti-repeal in various degrees and flavors:
The Robideaux-Michot series of repeal-oriented bills and Ellington’s bills were to be withdrawn as a consequences of a deal cut between Lafayette and BellSouth. Michot’s have been officially removed from the calendar. Robideaux’s versions haven’t moved since the deal was cut and would seem to count as dead as well. One of Ellington’s bills was to remain as a vehicle for Lafayette to push for a restriction on “frivolous” lawsuits and perhaps other matters–that has yet to take shape.
- HB 244, Robideaux -in House Commerce, SB 192, Michot–Withdrawn, Poison Pill. These bills would apply most of the rules that apply to municipal telecom entrants under the Local Government Fair Competition Act to “subsidized” private telecom providers.
- HB 245, Robideaux-in House Commerce; SB 495, Michot—Withdrawn, Repeal!! These bills would have repealed the Local Government Fair Competition Act.
- HB 257, Robideaux-in House Commerce; SB 243, Michot–Withdrawn, Exemptions. These bills would have exempted Lafayette from the Fair Competition Act and have exempted all wireless technologies. Both these bills were to be withdrawn as a consequences of a deal cut between Lafayette and BellSouth.
- HB 537, Robideaux–in House Commerce; Exemptions Redux. This bill would have repealed all the restrictive clauses of the fair competition act except the feasibility study and referendum provisions. It would have exempted all wireless technologies. This bill is among those to be withdrawn as a consequences of a deal cut between Lafayette and BellSouth. [This version of repeal had several Acadiana co-sponsors: Representatives, Robideaux, Pierre, Trahan, and Alexander as well as Senator Michot]
- SB 395, Ellington–in Senate Commerce Blank Check, A placeholder bill that would have allowed the incumbents to come in after the filing deadline and introduce by amendment any changes to the (un)Fair Competition Act they might desire.
- SB 585, Ellington–in Senate Commerce Blank Check Too Without making much discernable difference in the meaning of the Fair Competition Act SB 585 emphasizes that municipalities may buy a network if it leases it to private corporations. Functions as a placeholder.
Wireless-only Repeal Bills
- SB 211, Murray–in Senate Commerce, Wireless Exemption, Would exempt all wireless technologies from the Fair Competition Act. No action since 3/27
- HB 1174, LaFonta–died in House Commerce. Wireless Exemption for Parish Executives, Would have exempted all wireless technologies from the Fair Competition Act and vested decision-making power in elected parish executives.
- HB 1188, LaFonta–awaiting a vote on the Senate Floor. Wireless Disaster Recovery. The original version of this bill would have repealed the Fair Competition Act with respect to wireless technologies. Following the defeat of the similar HB 1174 LaFonta offered a series of amendments in committee that fundamentally altered the bill. It now extends the life of an emergency WiFi system to one year after a declared disaster ends. The network must be free and not supported by advertising; that is, it cannot be self-supporting. The original law allowed networks with speeds of less than 144 k to be built without regulation. The current version of the bill would raise that to 512 k.
Bills that would move cable franchises from local to state control
- SB 386, Ellington–in Senate Commerce. No action since 3/27. Was scheduled for hearing on May 1st in Committee but withdrawn from the day’s schedule.
- HB 699, Montgomery–awaiting a vote on the Senate Floor. State Video Franchise, Would eliminate local video franchises and vest control in the state. This bill has been extensively modified since its introduction. In its current form it would eliminate local franchising for both BellSouth/AT&T and incumbent cable providers. The bill contains an explicit exclusion for income arising from “information services” a federally defined category that excludes DSL and, AT&T claims, its IPTV services from local or state control. As a result of the passage of this law would be that when AT&T acquires BellSouth it would not be obligated to pay any of the local fees to use local rights of way that cable currently pays for that privilege. Vehemetly opposed by local governments. Intense lobbying effort underway by both sides.
- HB 258, Farrar–in House Commerce. State Video Franchise-PSC, No action since 3/27. Would eliminate local video franchises and vest control in the Public Service Commission.
Emergency Telecommunications bills with implications for municipal broadband
- HB 540, Burns–Pending Senate Introduction. Emergency Preparedness, Would mandate the development of a an emergency preparedness system. Lightly amended on the floor of the house.
- HB 619, Burns–Pending Senate Introduction. Emergency Preparedness–Coastal, Would mandate the development of a an emergency preparedness system in coastal regions. Amended by the house to limit the capacity of a new emergency network to an opt-in, text-based system.