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SEATOA Conference Set for March 21st-22nd

This March 21-22, the SouthEast Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (SEATOA) will be hosting the "Networking Communities for the New South" conference. The conference will be held at the Omni Charlotte Hotel.

We are excited to see Susan Crawford as the keynote speaker. From the conference page:

She will provide a broadband policy reality check, and answer – among other questions –whether current so-called “level playing field”, “free-market” policies are leaving us with a second class network that only the rich can afford.

(For a preview, listen to Susan in a recent Broadband Bits Podcast. She talked about her recent book and discussed the need for long term U.S. telecom policy change.)

Check out the schedule and list of other speakers [PDF] and start planning your itinerary. You can also register online.

Some of the issues discussed will be:

  • Public and private resources
  • How to offer services to schools and other government institutions as a way to save costs and yet build a platform for high bandwidth use
  • Info on the Research Triangle Park's North Carolina Next Generation Network, (NCNGN - sounds like NC Engine)
  • The National Public Safety FirstNET and municipal network
  • How to build, operate, and integrate social media into, local Public, Education and Government (PEG) channels, and into your organization's lobbying campaigns to obtain optimal reach

National Association of Counties Covers South Carolina Laws to Restrict Community Broadband

The National Association of Counties (NACo) gave us permission to reprint an article they recently wrote in their County News publication. NACo advocates for county governments on federal policy that impacts local decsion and local control. NACo is based in Washington, D.C.

In the article, author Charles Taylor discusses the perils of Oconee and Orangeburg Counties in South Carolina, both involved in broadband projects supported by stimulus funds. Because of a new law passed this past summer, those projects are in danger and the possibility of future projects is all but extinguished.

Rural counties' broadband projects face uncertainty

The success of two South Carolina counties’ plans to provide broadband access to rural areas could be in jeopardy because of a new state law that severely restricts public broadband projects. It also essentially bans new ones.

Oconee and Orangeburg counties received more than $27 million in federal stimulus funds in 2010 for rural broadband projects.

A South Carolina law, enacted in July, requires local governments that offer broadband Internet services to charge rates similar to those of private companies, even if the government could provide the service at a lower cost and the area is not served by commercial providers.

“It effectively prohibits municipalities from operating their own broadband systems through a series of regulatory and reporting requirements,” said Catharine Rice, president of the SouthEast Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (SEATOA). “These practically guarantee municipalities could never find financing because the requirements would render even a private sector broadband company inoperable.”

SEATOA represents local government broadband planners and community video programmers in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. While the statute won’t kill the projects already underway, it could limit their potential.

Orangeburg Seal

Orangeburg County received more than $18 million to build a “last-mile” fiber project — connecting directly to end users — serving about 25 percent of the rural county. It also invested about $4 million of its own money in the project.

“We have the ability to move forward and complete the project that we have,” said Harold Young, Orangeburg County administrator. “But the viability of the whole broadband system is put in jeopardy because this bill doesn’t allow us to expand past the initial phase of what we were doing.” That expansion is needed to make the project sustainable. Orangeburg, a “persistent poverty” county as defined by federal standards, applied for the grant to address “economic and educational disparities that exist within our community.”

Jim Baller is an attorney who has been involved in legislative and legal battles over dozens of cases of state barriers to public broadband projects. “For them not to have complete freedom to do what their citizens need is very difficult to justify,” he said.

Oconee County was awarded $9.6 million for a so-called “middle-mile” project to build a fiber-optic network to serve community anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals and libraries in rural areas of the county, and wholesale customers.

“The legislation, for us, is not a means to prevent us from operating our system. It’s meant to make it more difficult,” Oconee County Administrator Scott Moulder said, “and it’s meant to make it more competitive with the private market.” He doesn’t believe the statute will hamper the county’s ability to comply with the requirements of the federal grant it received, “but that’s still left to be seen, though,” he said.

ILSR Logo

Laws such as South Carolina’s are being passed in a growing number of states, according to Christopher Mitchell of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

In recent years, 19 states have passed laws that restrict or prohibit municipal broadband projects. And the major telephone and cable companies have opposed public broadband as anti-competitive and contributed heavily to legislators in states passing restrictive laws, he said.

“They want to prevent any new Davids. They’re Goliaths, and they want to make sure that to the extent that they can strangle David in his crib, they’re doing that,” Mitchell said. “To the extent that more networks pop up that show how much less expensive and more reliable (they are) — and faster speed can be distributed at a lower cost — these companies look worse.”

The Minnesota and Georgia state legislatures this year took up bills that could ban public broadband projects; the Georgia measure was turned into a study bill, and the Minnesota bill never made it out of committee.

That was good news for Bob Fox, a Renville County, Minn. commissioner. His county and neighboring Sibley County — along with 11 towns — have developed a proposal to provide “fiber to the farm,” homes, businesses and government facilities in these rural counties.

The RS (for Renville Sibley) Fiber project has created a joint powers board, as Minnesota law allows, to develop a system whose construction would be backed by revenue bonds. All participating communities have until Sept. 25 to vote on whether to participate.

“Agriculture has changed tremendously in the last couple of decades,” said Fox, who also chairs NACo’s Agriculture and Rural Development Steering Committee. “The technology is probably one of the pieces that’s lagging.” He believes that if restrictive legislation is resurrected next year it would grandfather projects already underway.

However these projects work out, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Mitchell sees rural broadband as a potential economic engine — with a parallel to electricity. “Broadband in rural areas is important to me because it improves the economy everywhere,” he said. “Rural electrification provided a turbo-boost to the economy because everyone was participating. And we see the exact same effect in broadband.”

Community Broadband Bits 6 - Cheryl Leanza of Progressive States Network

Our sixth episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast features a discussion with Cheryl Leanza, broadband consultant with Progressive States Network. Cheryl has been very active in legislative battles at the state level, where she has helped to defend the public against anti-consumer deregulation led by AT&T, CenturyLink, and cable lobbyists.

We touched on the effort in Georgia to revoke local authority as well as once again noting the bad bills in North Carolina in 2011 and South Carolina in 2012.

We also spent time talking about the state-by-state effort to kill consumer protections, including the basic right to have a wireline telephone in your home.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 14 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here.

Thanks to Fit and the Conniptions for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Orangeburg County, South Carolina, Moves Ahead With Stimulus-Funded Broadband

Orangeburg County, South Carolina, received $18.65 million in broadband stimulus funds for high-speed broadband (which we previously noted). Unfortunately, AT&T and its friends at ALEC have since pushed through a state law to limit local authority in building networks.

According to the Broadband Adoption Map from the Investigative Reporting Workshop of the American University School of Communication, Orangeburg County has a broadband adoption rate of 20-40% as compared to the national rate of 60%.

Not only has AT&T refused to invest in modern networks in much of South Carolina, it is not even bothering to accept a federal subsidy that would underwrite some of that cost. Which is actually good for the rest of us, because subsidizing any AT&T activities is a very poor use of taxpayer dollars.

But Orangeburg is moving forward on its own. The Orangeburg County Council approved a $2.4 million contract with Edwards Telecommunications to complete the third phase of their project. This phase alone will use 171 miles of fiber and add 902 households to the network. Two more phases are scheduled before the entire project is complete.

According to a Gene Zaleski Times and Democrat article:

Seventy-five percent of the project will be paid for with a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service grant and the remaining 25 percent will be paid for with proceeds from the Orangeburg County capital project sales tax.

In 2010, after receiving the award, the County expressed their optimism in a Phil Sarta article in the Times Democrat:

[County Administrator Bill] Clark said broadband capability will be extended to 3,700-3,800 households and roughly 90 businesses. The project area includes the Orangeburg City-County Industrial Park at Interstate 26 and U.S. 301, the I-95/I-26 interchange and other key I-26 exits where water and wastewater lines are being developed.

At that time, Clark also expressed the frustration shared by many rural areas:

"If some of these other providers had a desire to serve these rural areas, they would have already been doing it," Clark said. "We are entering the broadband business because third-party providers are reluctant to provide the service."

While AT&T may be reluctant to provide service, they are not all reluctant to restrict Orangeburg County from building it for themselves. No surprises here - AT&T is in the business of monetizing scarcity, not providing a valuable service.

Community Broadband Bits 5 - Catharine Rice of SEATOA

For our fifth episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, we have a discussion with Catharine Rice of SEATOA - the Southeastern Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors. We discuss legislation in North and South Carolina designed to stop communities from building their own networks.

Catharine Rice has been a strong advocate for local authority, helping communities respond to the CenturyLink and Time Warner Cable lobbying Juggernaut in the state capitals. After many years of successfully stopping these big companies from enacting anti-competition legislation, North Carolina passed a bill in 2011 and South Carolina in 2012.

You can read our stories that touch on South Carolina here and North Carolina here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 25 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via a different tool using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here.

Thanks to Fit and the Conniptions for the music.

South Carolina's "Exceptions" To Anti-Community Broadband Law are Worthless

South Carolina's H3508 has passed the legislature, been signed by Governor Nikki R. Haley, and has revoked local authority to build the broadband networks they need to create new jobs. Last week, we noted some of the coverage about the bill.

After reviewing the language of the bill, we are astonished at how far the Governor and the South Carolina Legislature have gone to protect AT&T's monopoly, to the detriment of the many businesses and citizens who desperately need better access to the Internet -- whether to be more productive, competitive, or just take advantage of educational opportunities.

South Carolina is near the bottom of adoption rate in the U.S. and has a higher than average number of residents living below the poverty line. Communities with fast, affordable, and reliable access to the Internet are seeing new jobs. Those stuck on slow DSL are watching jobs wither away.

We continue to be amazed at state legislatures that are prioritizing laws to make it harder to expand broadband rather than easier. The only explanation is the vast amounts of money big companies like AT&T and Time Warner Cable spend in campaign contributions.

This bill is designed to prevent local governments from building next-generation networks, even when the private sector has refused to invest. It may also put an end to projects already in the works (even those that have received BTOP or BIP funding).

H3508 is not an outright ban against municipal networks, but it might as well be. South Carolina had already discouraged community broadband networks in Article 23, Chapter 9, Title 58 of its 1976 Code. This bill ramps up the unfavorable conditions to make such investments all but impossible.

Much of telecommunications is regulated by states and the federal government, which means that local governments already have to follow the same rules as companies like AT&T and Time Warner Cable. To the extent that local governments have authority, they are required by law not to favor their own network. But South Carolina has decided to impose still more regulations only on local governments if the community decides to build its own network.

It would be impolitic to advance a bill that simply says local governments cannot invest in the essential infrastructure needed for the modern economy. So these bills are instead crafted to appear reasonable while effectively demanding that communities capture a leprechaun riding a unicorn before they can build a network. 

In the coverage of this bill, few have examined the "exemptions" in depth, so that is where our coverage will focus. The "exceptions" contained to the onerous provisions of this bill are nearly impossible to qualify for and provide insufficient certainty as to how long they would apply.

South Carolina Seal

You've Been 'Served'

South Carolina continues to use a 1990's definition "broadband service" of 190kbps in at least one direction. Possibly the worst broadband definition we have seen. But for the purposes of this bill and defining who is "served," they have adopted the FCC's "Basic Broadband Tier 1" as a benchmark. Currently, that is at least 768kbps in at least one direction. 

Some of the regulations uniquely imposed on publicly owned networks will be relaxed if the community network can obtain "unserved" designation for a specific geographic area it wishes to serve. Designation must come from the South Carolina Public Service Commission and can only be achieved in one of two ways:

1. If the county is a "persistent poverty county" (a USDA definition) AND at least 75% of the households in a 2010 census tract have either no broadband service or only access to service from a satellite provider - In rural areas, census tracts usually include large geographic areas of many census blocks, often cross county lines, and can be arbitrarily drawn, so meeting this requirement appears quite difficult. Another difficulty is that maps depicting broadband access systematically overstate coverage, often claiming some households have access when they actually cannot connect.

As 3G wireless connections (from AT&T, Verizon, or others) exceed 768kbps in one direction, we would be surprised to find multiple connecting census tracts with 90% of households lacking "broadband." Of course, a dramatically overpriced wireless service with small monthly bandwidth caps is useless for doing homework, remote education, economic development, and pretty much anything beyond email and very basic web surfing.

2. If at least 90% of the households in the county have no broadband service or only access to service from a satellite provider - Here, the requirement shifts to census blocks, which greatly tightens the requirements. Blocks are the smallest unit of census measurement, more akin to city blocks in town, but can be much larger in rural areas. Even the 2011 North Carolina bill didn't go this far, defining "unserved" as census blocks where "at least 50% of households have no broadband service or only access to satellite service."

Catharine Rice, President of SEATOA, applied some pragmatic perspective in an email to us:

Unserved areas are defined by census blocks. So you'd have to cull together tens of thousands to make a network viable, and all of them would have to qualify as unserved... So if 11% of the homes have [basic tier 1 broadband service as defined by the FCC] (not enough speed to even download a Netflix video), that Census block is 'served.' 

Also the real show stopper here is that the NTIA federal broadband maps do not measure areas by households. More specifically, the NTIA rules allow this: if one home in a census block could have broadband in 7-10 business days (as determined by the carrier reporting the data), the entire Census block is considered to have broadband. So a SC community would have to do its own broadband census survey, and that aint' cheap.

SEATOA Logo

Hard to Get, Easy to Lose

Even if a county is able to qualify as "unserved" and could legally pursue a municipal network for their community, the designation is easily challenged by a resident or a competitor ISP. All it takes is an objection, the opportunity for a hearing, and testimony to stop the petition for "unserved" designation. This part of the process can halt development by at least 90 days. Time can be a killer for network planning and the big telcos know that. Theoretically, AT&T can hire a "Petition Buster" to routinely file objections and use time to destroy plans for networks. This is a common tactic used by big corporations that maintain big teams of lawyers -- they prefer to spend a little to block new competition rather than a lot to compete in a competitive market.

Exception Today, Gone Tomorrow

One of the most troubling components of the new law is the time restrictions that apply to the "exceptions." New broadband networks, both publicly and privately owned, require years to build and leave the "startup" phase. 

If a county is designated as "unserved," a government entity offering service is only exempt from the crippling additional regulations for one year if that area loses its "unserved" designation. Bear in mind that these unserved areas are where the business case for broadband does not exist. So if a community can somehow build a network in this area, it will quickly lose its exemption if AT&T decides to put a 3G tower up in the area.

This is not an exemption. It was an opportunity for elected officials to pretend they didn't just give AT&T an unofficial monopoly in return for generous campaign contributions. We will be very surprised to see any community proceed with a network given the uncertainty and increased advantages this legislation gives the biggest carriers (who have refused to invest in South Carolina).  

South Carolina Legislature Puts AT&T Monopoly Above Own Infrastructure Needs

Last week, South Carolina's General Assembly passed H3508, the ALEC and AT&T bill we previously warned you about. AT&T, ALEC, and cable companies pushed this bill to limit broadband competition and revoke local authority to decide if public investments in broadband infrastructure are wise.

H3508 is one of the worst pieces of legislation we have seen. States usually incorporate language that "grandfathers in" existing projects as a way to avoid legal challenge and federal scrutiny of their anti-competition legislation. In South Carolina, however, crafty drafting puts one county BTOP project in the cross hairs while permitting two other projects to continue.

Below is a roundup of media coverage of the bill. We will soon release our analysis of the supposed "exemptions" to this bill but in the meantime, this coverage explains several of the problems with South Carolina's latest Monopoly Protection Act.

Ars Technica's Cyrus Farivar contacted Jim Baller, a preeminent telecom attorney and expert in broadband issues:

"States have different ways to achieve the same end—discourage, delay, or derail public broadband initiatives," wrote Jim Baller, a telecom lawyer based in Washington, DC, in an e-mail to Ars on Thursday. He noted that similar bills were introduced in Minnesota and Georgia this year, the former of which has led to a "study bill," while the latter did not make it out of committee.

"In some ways, the South Carolina bill is worst of all because it does not grandfather existing projects and would retroactively undermine federal stimulus grants that Orangeburg and Oconee Counties have received,"  he added.

Ars Technica Logo

Farivar also looked into the chief author and found:

Public records show that in 2011, AT&T, itself an ALEC member, contributed $1,000 to the coffers of Michael Gambrell, South Carolina assembly member and lead author on the bill. Other sponsors of the bill, including Bill Sandifer, Bobby Harrell, and many of its supporters, also received donations from AT&T as well.

Gerry Smith, of the Huffington Post, also noted a correlation between H3508 and political support:

In South Carolina, AT&T, CenturyLink, and Time Warner contributed more than $146,000 to state lawmakers since last January who supported the bill, according to an analysis by The New Republic.

Last year, North Carolina also passed a law restricting local governments from building publicly owned broadband networks. Lawmakers who voted in favor of the bill received on average 76 percent more in donations from major cable and telecom companies than those who voted against it, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Smith sought out the chief author, who offered the number one AT&T/ALEC talking point:

"What this law does is level the playing field,” Mike Gambrell, a state lawmaker who sponsored the legislation, said in an interview.

But critics say AT&T, the major telecom company in the state, does not serve broadband to many rural areas where local governments could provide their own networks. In addition, they say the law leaves rural communities with sluggish Internet speeds because it defines a "served" area as one that can access internet speeds of least 190 kilobits per second, which is slower than the FCC's definition of broadband.

We address "level playing field" arguments here.

Catharine Rice, President of the SouthEast Association of Telecommunications Officers and Adviors (SEATOA), contacted us with a practical application of the bill's "served" versus "unserved" application:

This bill limits their [municipal networks] service areas to surrounding rural areas, and effectively prohibits any other communities in SC (and there are many) from filling the broadband gap created by the large private carriers.

Unserved areas are defined by census blocks. So you'd have to cull together tens of thousands to make a network viable, and all of them would have to qualify as unserved. According to the bill, an unserved area is a census block where 90% of the homes in the census block don't have access to 768 Kbps service. So if 11% of the homes have 768Kbps (not enough speed to even download a Netflix video), that Census block is "served." 

Bad, bad, and more bad

Hartsville seal

While two current Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) projects, Orangeburg and the City of Hartsville, appear to fall into H3508's exemption and will be able to proceed, Oconee County faces special problems with their project, F.O.C.U.S (Fiber Optics Creating Unified Solutions). Jim Baller's legal analysis for Oconee County concludes that :

By requiring the County to show that “the middle-mile services it offers are used to actually provide communications services to end users in unserved areas,” ... would ... render the exemption useless to the County. That is so because it is impossible for the County to comply with H.3508’s prohibitions on an end-user-by-end-user basis. As a result, if even a single Community Anchor Institution served even a single end user outside an unserved area, the County would be subject to the full panoply of H.3508’s onerous prohibitions.

This type of project, focused on providing upgraded connections for anchor institutions, and not focusing on last mile connectivity, is one type of project encouraged by the National Broadband Plan.

The Plan also calls for Congress to make it clear that all communities have the authority to build their own networks. Since H3508 doesn't adequately grandfather in existing projects, which most states do, the bill is open to legal challenge. It is contrary to the letter and the spirit of the National Broadband Plan.

Baller also notes a potential Constitutionality issue. The United States legal system takes great pains to limit and avoid retroactive laws. This bill prevents Oconee County from honoring commitments and contracts with the federal government and with the private sector. With no insurance against retroactivity in the law, the economic drivers in our country are loathe to commit and shy to invest.

This bill is bad for communities, bad for the private sector, bad for people who want a real choice in broadband providers. Google, Alcatel-Lucent, NATOA, SEATOA, and other groups in the telecom industry advocated against H3508. South Carolina is near the bottom of adoption rate in the U.S. and has a higher than national average of residents living below the poverty line. With laws like this, those statistics are unlikely to change.

Community Broadband Legislation Alert: South Carolina

Yesterday the South Carolina Senate voted in a second reading of H 3508, a bill that has been debated in the State Legislature since it was introduced in January of 2011. The bill, pushed by AT&T and ALEC, has been on our radar for quite some time.

We have watched this piece of legislation because it will have immediate and unfortunate negative implications for the people of South Carolina. Right now, the state has a miserable adoption rate with an average of 53 out of 100 households connected. Like many other states in the South, poverty, geography, and lack of interest from the major carriers have left South Carolina behind the rest of the country.

The bill will revoke local authority to pick up the slack where the private industry has failed. If this bill passes, South Carolina will entrust its future to AT&T, which has admitted it has no solution for rural broadband. And in the meantime, it is ripping off our schools and libraries, as revealed in a recent ProPublica article examining E-rate Program.

If you live in South Carolina, call your elected officials and let them know you are a constituent and you believe communities should make these decisions locally.

Find your legislator here. Tell them to oppose H.3508 and any efforts to limit local authority to make decisions about broadband.

Recent Articles show ALEC and South Carolina Pushing to Limit Community Broadband

Community Broadband networks are increasingly getting the attention they deserve as an option for communities that want better, more accountable connections to the Internet.

We have long been warning about an AT&T-pushed bill in South Carolina to make it even harder for communities in that state to build the infrastructure AT&T has long neglected. But now The New Republic has also noticed -- in "Why are Telecom Companies Blocking rural America from Getting High-Speed Internet?"

The story starts by discussing rural and impoverished Orangeburg County, which received a stimulus award to help build the telecom infrastructure they need to succeed in the modern economy.

In an effort to improve the area’s economic prospects, county officials have worked in recent years to secure funding to refurbish roadways and sewer systems—but they also know that, in a globalized marketplace, old-school infrastructure is not nearly enough. That’s why, in 2009, Orangeburg County applied for, and received, $18.65 million in stimulus money to finally give the area access to high-speed broadband internet. County Administrator Bill Clark and his colleagues envisioned a municipal, or muni, network that could reach roughly a quarter of Orangeburg’s rural population, including just over three thousand households and one hundred businesses.

...

But the titans of telecom aren’t operating on quite the same wavelength. Since last January, AT&T, CenturyLink, and Time Warner have contributed just over $146,000 to politicians in South Carolina who back legislation that would cripple networks like Orangeburg’s. It’s only one example of a broader campaign by telecom companies to protect their cartel at all costs—even at the expense of keeping the country’s poorest on the wrong side of the digital divide for many years to come.

Same story, different state. We've seen the same efforts across the U.S., which is why nineteen states have created barriers to community broadband.

Meanwhile, the source of a lot of those barriers -- the American Legislative Exchange Council -- or ALEC has been getting attention for the many bad bills they have ushered through state legislators. ALEC is a front group for big corporations, including AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and other big carriers that allows them to wine and dine state legislators as part of a larger strategy to enact the laws they write to advantage themselves.

An article in the Republic Report says, "ALEC wants you to pay 750% more for High-Speed Internet."

It doesn't end there either -- ALEC is also presently pushing a slew of bills to gut state authority over telecommunications generally. So when AT&T or CenturyLink decide they don't want to serve high cost rural exchanges, they can just walk away. Or if their service is so bad it borders on unusable, the state Public Utilities Commission will not have the power to require them to fix it.

Honesty From Heartland: Munis Outgunned in Competition with Private Sector

The Heartland Institute is one of those organizations that will say anything its massive corporate funders want it to. It is embroiled in a scandal from the release of internal documents due to its work challenging the science behind climate change.

In the telecom space, Heartland's employees have encouraged laws to take decision-making authority away from communities in order to benefit the massive cable and DSL companies (like Heartland-funder AT&T).

They advocate for efforts like Georgia's SB 313 and South Carolina's H3508, saying:

  1. Muni networks are doomed to failure because of the general incompetence of government
  2. Muni networks will drive private sector providers out of the market because governments are too all powerful and have too many advantages in competition

This is why we see bills that are supposed to "level the playing field" pushed by big companies like Time Warner Cable in North Carolina last year.

If you take a gander at Heartland's telecom work, you have to wonder why the playing field needs to be leveled if they believe what they have written:

A municipal government cannot possibly hope to compete with well-capitalized broadband providers in a highly competitive market.

For those unfamiliar with Heartland, they don't use the same definitions for common words like "competitive" as the rest of us do. In Heartland's world, "competitive" means a market in which one of our funders operates regardless of how much competition exists in it.

So why do we need new legislation to make it even harder for communities to build the networks that the cable and DSL companies won't build?