Cities Defend Cable Franchising, Municipal Broadband Authority
By Ron Thaniel
February 20, 2006
The U.S. Conference of Mayors Telecommunications Rewrite Priorities:
- Close the digital divide.
- Avoid fiscal harm to local governments.
- Preserve local government’s management of the rights'of-way.
- Maintain local government’s franchise agreement authority.
- Maintain social obligations and public safety obligations of the providers.
- Municipal broadband
Proceed to the Conference of Mayors homepage usmayors.org for more information.
Just prior to this week’s Presidents' Day recess, the Senate Commerce Committee last week turned its attention to two key local government concerns in the rewrite of the Federal Communications Act – Video Franchising and Municipal Networks.
The Commerce Committee under the leadership of Senator Ted Stevens (AK) and Ranking Member Daniel Inouye (HI) held its ninth hearing February 15 on communications issues as the committee lays the groundwork for the rewrite of the Federal Communications Act.
AT&T and Verizon Communications are pressing congress to pass legislation to allow phone companies to bypass local government franchising authority were on a panel appearing before the Committee. Other witnesses included the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors President San Bernardino County franchise administrator Lori-Panzino-Tillery on behalf of The U.S. Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, National Association of Counties, TeleCommUnity, and Government Finance Officers Association who urged that control in video franchising must remain in the hands of local governments to ensure maximum protection for consumers.
Panzino-Tillery told the Senate committee that proposals supported by a number of telephone companies to eliminate local government oversight are misguided. “What they really want … is to tilt the playing field to their own advantage,” she said. “The radical changes some are seeking would lead to communications red-lining. Income will determine who gets access to competition.”
The Senate Commerce Committee focused attention February 14 on State and Local Issues and Municipal Networks.
Countering industry concerns that they cannot compete fairly against municipalities, which has led to states prohibiting municipalities from offering telecommunications service, Dianah Neff, Chief Information Officer of Philadelphia, told the committee that, “A century ago, municipal leaders across the country knew that without electricity their communities would be left behind as our nation moved from agrarian to an industrial country. Today, Philadelphia Mayor John Street and many others across the nation have recognized that without affordable high'speed broadband access our communities will be left behind as the world moves from an industrial to an information-driven economy.”
Wireless Philadelphia is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit corporation established to revitalize neighborhoods, provide opportunity to residents, and strengthen the economy by enabling access to affordable, high'speed wireless Internet throughout the city.
Neff urged the committee, as they consider the rewrite of the Federal Communications Act, to support S. 1294, the proposed Community Broadband Act sponsored by Senators Lautenberg and McCain and co'sponsored by Senators Coleman, Feingold, Graham, and Kerry.
The bill will discourage other states from enacting the kinds of barriers to entry that now will keep cities and towns across Pennsylvania from offering the kinds of services that will be offered in Philadelphia. It will also encourage the dozen or so states that created roadblocks to reconsider their earlier decisions to impose limits on what local governments may offer.
Neff said, “Your action will signal to community leaders across the country that you understand what needs to be done to help them compete globally and serve the fundamental needs of their communities.”
The Community Broadband Coalition
Prior to the hearing, The Conference joined with more than 30 organizations to urge the Senate Commerce Committee to report S. 1294 favorably.