March 02, 2005

Rep. King wasn't expecting to hear from citizens

According to this Austin-American Statesman article, Chairman Phil King was surprised to hear that cities, towns and citizens favor municipal wireless -- after getting his information only from incumbent lobbyists.

"I had no idea we would have 2 1/2 days of testimony on broadband," King, R-Weatherford, said Tuesday. "But the toothpaste is out of the tube. . . . This deal is a brave new world of emerging technologies, and we have to kind of muddle through it."
Asked where the provision originated, King said it arose from hearings of the Regulated Industries Committee, which he chairs."It was just me, sitting in the hearings," listening to industry representatives talk about broadband, he said.

So it was a surprise to King when he discovered that cities and towns of all sizes object to the ban on municipal broadband.

The article describes the dire state of broadband competition in most of Texas:

Only 16 Texas counties have no broadband service, but 93 have only one provider, according to the Public Utility Commission. Also, coverage in rural areas may be limited to a tiny part of town or to only one town in an entire county.
"For economic development, it is a death blow in the 21st century if you don't have broadband," said Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs. "If I wanted to encourage some company to move to small-town Texas, . . . they will ask about education and housing. And then they will ask about broadband."

Even though it's transparently clear that the private sector is not providing a competitive market in most of Texas, Rep. King insists that it is critical to protect the incumbent telcos from cities and towns. It's the idea of a free enterprise system," King said. "As a matter of public policy, we can't let the public sector compete with the private sector."

Yet even strong advocates of private enterprise agree that services like roads, streetlights, and public transit provide critical infrastructure for cities and towns. Only a radical would argue that all roads should be run like the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Posted by alevin at March 2, 2005 10:29 AM