Community Broadband Act moves to the U.S. Senate

Following up on an old story made new again…

The latest Community Broadband bill has been reported favorably out of its Senate Committee and will face a vote on the floor of the Senate. Partisans of Lafayette’s fiber optic network ought to drop a line to Mary Landrieu and David Vitter insisting that they vote to make the bill federal law.

From the MuniWireless short:

It should never have required a proverbial “act of Congress” to insure that local government could make decisions aimed at lowering access rates and promoting economic development in their local communities. And yet, it did.

Or, rather, so it will. This story began back in 05 when Senators Lautenberg (D) and McCain (R) promoted a bipartisan bill that would have guaranteed that no state could forbid local authorities to provide telecommunications services. At that time Lafayette’s high-profile fiber fight was underway and it was said that the behavior of the incumbents helped the bill gain traction. But not enough traction. It was eventually folded into the 06 effort to pass an omnibus telecommunications bill–the bill that went down in flames in the aftermath of AT&T’s net neutrality faux pas. This year it is back as an independent bill.

Over the years it has gathered an influential bevy of seven co-sponsors ranging from McCain and Kerry to Inouye and Stevens (he of “the internet is a series of tubes” fame).

So write to Landrieu and Vitter and suggest that they support the cause.

You might even want to urge them to suggest a simple ammendment prohibiting the cruel and unusal punishment of local communities: add language prohibiting the state from imposing special disabilities not applied to other public projects or private businesses only on public telecom projects. The bill as it stands only forbids a law that bans or has the effect of banning local government participation. That leaves a huge amount of room for mischief of exactly the sort that BellSouth/AT&T and Cox engaged in with the Louisiana (un)Fair Competition Act. That law in its original form would have had the effect of forbidding municipal participation. But th e law that passed “merely” imposes enormous disabilities that on our public utility that would outrage BS/AT&T should anyone even consider imposing such on them ranging from special requirements for public planning to forbidding the use of the system’s financial resources, to shutting down the business automatically if it should have a bad stretch, to a completely unique and possibly unconstitutional regulatory apparatus. I don’t think there is another city in the state that has the cojones for this fight–in effect it is and was intended to be prohibitive. Only Lafayette’s unusual courage and determination allowed it to get this far–and it will continue to be restricted in damaging ways.

But the sad truth it that by perservering against all the odds Lafayette has proven that it can be done. And so the law will not be viewed as prohibitive and will likely become a perverse template for use in other states.

The suggested new language prohibiting “cruel and unusual” punishment of local communities would help us–and would help a lot of communities that might face a law like Louisiana’s.

Go ahead, drop David and Mary a note suggesting that they help ban the cruel and unusual punishment of their local communities by supporting a strengthened Community Broadband Act.