June 01, 2005

Why the Sessions bill is misleading

The Pete Sessions bill to ban municipal networks pretends to allow municipal service only in the case of market failure -- but the actual language of the ban is much more sweeping.

The bill bans a state or local government from providing any telecom service, whenever a private corporation is offering "substantially similar service" "in any geographic area within the jurisdiction of such government."

This language would prohibit municipal broadband:

  • in an underserved urban neighborhood that has no access, but has neighbors a few blocks away that do have access.
  • in a rural area where a small part of a county has broadband and the rest of the county is dark.

The bill would also ban the Dallas/Corpus Christi/LA/Seattle strategies to do downtown wifi. Telephone companies might offer EVDO (licensed spectrum) based wireless services that might be many times as expensive, and slower than a wifi mesh service -- but could be seen as "substantially similar."

In reality, the Sessions bill defends the right of the incumbents to offer a patchwork of services, and to leave a region's economic fate at their mercy.

Posted by alevin at June 1, 2005 04:55 AM