Public sector agencies are the nation’s largest telecom customers. A community with a population of 40,000 purchases an estimated $1.1 million dollars annually in telecom services – costs offset by use of I-Nets. Imagine the devastation on local budgets when state video franchising laws eliminate I-Nets as compensation for use of public right-of-way. It’s rumored that a cable operator can charge a California community $45,000 a month to use a thirty-drop I-Net that, prior to passage of the state video franchising law, had been part of payments for use of public rights-of-way.
Minnesota Legislation Would Revoke Local Authority over Broadband
We have heard rumors that the Minnesota Cable Communications Association (MCCA) has ramped up its lobbying efforts in the capitol over the past few weeks and now we know why -- Representative Runbeck is today introducing MN HF 2695
, a bill undoubtedly written by the cable companies.
Update: Apparently MCCA is denying they are behind this bill. Given how blunt the bill is, I'm inclined to take them at their word. I would expect a bill by MCCA to be more strategic, refusing to admit they wanted to revoke all authority outright. Nonetheless, this bill is still a giant gift to the incumbent cable operators in the state.
Much of Minnesota lacks access to next generation broadband networks -- the kind of networks needed for economic development and maintaining a high quality of life. Minnesota law already discourages communities from building their own next-generation networks but they still have the authority to choose.
This bill would deny them a choice. If passed, MN HF 2695 would be a power grab by the state on behalf of big cable companies to prevent any threat of broadband competition, denying communities local self-determination on matters of essential infrastructure.
MCCA has been trying to kill a broadband stimulus project on the North Shore that would connect thousands of people who have no access to modern broadband because it overlaps in places with Mediacom turf. Mediacom recognizes that if it can kill the network owned by Lake County, it will have no competition to worry about for the foreseeable future.
Private telecom companies are not about to go overbuild rural areas or pick a fight with Mediacom. The only legitimate hope for a real choice in broadband in Minnesota is in areas where communities choose to do it themselves.
We believe communities should be free to make that choice. The cable companies, and a number of elected officials in Minnesota, believe that communities should not be trusted with that decision.