May 18, 2005

Muni Broadband Remains Threatened in Texas

This week, the Texas legislature took an important step to support improved broadband availability in our state. In spite of that good news, muni networks remain threatened. We have a lot more work to do to stop the HB 789 muni ban.

This week, Sen. Troy Fraser, the Chair of the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce, presented his version of HB 789 for consideration in the Senate. We were delighted to see that the muni broadband restrictions present in the House version were not included. Several muni network advocates spoke in committee in support of the bill. Nobody testified for reviving the muni network ban. The bill was left pending in committee.

Once the bill is voted out of the committee, it goes to the full Senate. Any Senator can offer an amendment from the floor. This is a point of significant risk. The incumbent communication providers could use their influence to bypass Sen. Fraser and get the muni ban re-inserted.

Even if a "good bill" gets passed out of the Senate, it needs to be reconciled with the "bad bill" that was passed by the House. A conference committee will hammer out the differences. They may choose to follow the Senate bill and leave the muni ban behind, follow the House bill and ban muni networks, or come up with some other resolution. This is another point of risk. The incumbent providers may pressure the conferees to see things their way.

So, there is a long way to go before this is settled. The only thing we know for sure is that it will be settled in less than two weeks, because that's when the legislative session ends. Presuming the bill is approved by the committee in its current form, our next step is to contact all of the Texas state Senators and ask them to oppose limits on broadband networks.

Posted by chip at May 18, 2005 11:50 AM