state preemption

Content tagged with "state preemption"

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NTIA Says State Muni-Bans Won’t Delay BEAD Funding

The NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) insists that the 17 state laws that hamper nationwide community broadband deployments won’t delay a massive looming infusion of infrastructure broadband subsidies. But one industry group isn’t so sure.

BroadbandNow, a website dedicated to tracking the U.S. broadband industry, issued a report claiming that state restrictions on community broadband networks could delay the delivery of more than $42.45 billion in BEAD (Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment) grants made possible by the recently-passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

Such bills, often ghost written by the telecom industry by policy and lobbying intermediaries, often limit the construction or financing of community broadband networks, even in unserved areas that regional telecom monopolies have long neglected.

Covid’s home education and telecommuting boom highlighted the restrictive and often counterproductive nature of such bills, leading two states — Arkansas and Washington — to remove the barriers. And in Colorado earlier this month, Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 23-183 into law that eliminates an older 2005 law backed by regional telecom monopolies, which imposed cumbersome and onerous restrictions on Colorado towns and cities looking to build better, more affordable community-owned and operated broadband networks.

Colorado Repeal Of Community Broadband Ban A Turning Point Decades In The Making

Colorado state leaders have voted to eliminate long-criticized state barriers to municipal broadband networks. Community broadband advocates hope it will be a beacon for other states eager to bring more reliable and affordable high-speed Internet service to a market long dominated by monopoly providers.

The Colorado decision, made after years of citizen backlash to the counterproductive restrictions, is the latest inflection point in a retreat away from monopoly-backed state laws stifling creative efforts to bridge the digital divide.

On May 1, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 23-183. The new law formally eliminates an older 2005 law backed by regional telecom monopolies, which imposed cumbersome and onerous restrictions on Colorado towns and cities looking to build better, more affordable community-owned and operated broadband networks.

“SB23-183 removes the biggest obstacle to achieving the Governor’s goal to connect 99% of Colorado households by the end of 2027,” Colorado Broadband Office Executive Director Brandy Reitter said of the decision. “Each local government is in a unique position or different phase of connecting residents to high-speed internet, and this bill allows them to establish broadband plans that meet the needs of their communities.”

Colorado state leaders say the repeal puts them in a prime position to capitalize on numerous digital equity programs designed to address Colorado’s digital divide, as well as the more than $42 billion in broadband subsidies soon to be distributed courtesy of the recently-passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

“With large amounts of federal funding coming from the IIJA bill, we wanted communities to be ready to receive this money,” Colorado Representative Brianna Titone told ILSR.

Last year, Governor Polis signed an executive order formally setting a goal of connecting 99% of Colorado households by the end of 2027. Colorado state leaders have previously stated they expect their share of IIJA/BEAD funding to be between $400 and $700 million; money that can now be used more broadly on a diverse array of creative broadband solutions.

Treasury Doles Out $740 Million In ARPA Funds To California, Pennsylvania

The U.S. Treasury Department recently awarded more than $740 million in new American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funding to the states of California and Pennsylvania, providing a major boon to both states’ efforts to expand access to affordable broadband.

The Treasury awarded $540.2 million for high-speed Internet expansion projects in California under the American Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund (CPF). According to the announcement, the funds will be used to connect 127,000 homes and businesses across California as part of the state’s ongoing “California Comeback Plan.

As part of that effort, California leaders say they’ll spend $7 billion on expanding broadband access over the next three years, with $4 billion of that to be used for constructing a statewide middle-mile, open access fiber network the state hopes will boost broadband competition and drive down broadband access costs statewide.

To manage federal grant funds, California created its Last Mile Broadband Expansion grant program, which was designed to provide Internet access to areas of the state currently lacking access to reliable, affordable broadband at the FCC’s increasingly dated definition of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream, 3 Mbps upstream.

“The pandemic upended life as we knew it and exposed the stark inequity in access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet in communities across the country, including rural, Tribal, and other underrepresented communities,” said Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo.

“This funding is a key piece of the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic investments to increase access to high-speed internet for millions of Americans and provide more opportunities to fully participate and compete in the 21st century economy,” Adeyemo added.  

Montana Tweaks State Ban On Community Broadband, But Most Restrictions Remain

Hoping to ensure it can actually spend its share of historic broadband funding, Montana lawmakers have tweaked the state’s restrictions on community broadband. However, experts say most of the state law’s pointless restrictions remain intact, undermining state efforts to bring affordable, next-generation broadband access to Montana residents.

Montana’s one of seventeen states that have passed laws banning or restricting municipal broadband networks. The bills are usually ghost written by telecom monopoly lawyers, and in many states either outright prohibit community-owned broadband networks, or are designed to make funding and expanding such networks untenable.

Montana’s specific law, Mon. Code Ann. § 2-17-603, only allow municipalities to build and deliver broadband alternatives if there are no other private companies offering broadband within the municipality’s jurisdiction, or if the municipality can offer “advanced services” that are not available from incumbents.

Covid home schooling and telecommuting needs highlighted the counterproductive nature of such restrictions, driving some states—such as Arkansas and Washington—to dramatically roll back their restrictions.

New Bill Could Make Colorado Friendly State for Municipal Broadband

Earlier this month, a new Colorado bill was introduced that, if passed, would rid the state of a law designed to protect monopoly Internet service providers (ISPs) from competition.

SB-183, titled “Local Government Provision Of Communications Services,” seeks to gut a law Big Telecom pushed state lawmakers to pass in 2005. That law, known as SB-152, prevented any of Colorado’s 272 municipalities from building and operating their own telecommunication infrastructure unless local voters first passed a referendum to “opt out.”

End of ‘the Qwest Law’?

Known also as “the Qwest law,” Qwest (now Lumen but more recently CenturyLink), with the help of Comcast, leaned on legislative allies to pass SB-152 to protect their monopoly profits. On our Community Broadband Bits podcast, Ken Fellman and Jeff Wilson, prominent telecom attorneys, recount how lobbyists for the monopoly ISPs were instrumental in pushing two false, but effective, narratives we’ve seen many times before: that SB-152 only sought to “level the playing field” so that private companies could compete with municipally run networks, and that SB-152 “protected” Coloradoans from irresponsible local governments, as if there were no such things as local elections.

But, if passed, the new proposed legislation (SB-183) – co-sponsored by a bipartisan-ish group of state legislators (10 Democrats and 2 Republicans) – would neuter SB-152 and allow local communities to decide for themselves if they wanted to pursue municipal broadband without needing special permission from the state.

IN OUR VIEW: City Cast Provides Good Lessons for Covering Broadband

City Cast Las Vegas recently aired back-to-back podcast episodes about Internet access in the region, "Why Does Our Internet Suck?" followed by "Who Can Fix Our Internet?" As an organization that both produces stories like that as well as stars on them, as our own Sean Gonsalves did in the first episode, we wanted to share why we think these are well done and should serve as good lessons for others covering these issues.

The interviewer, Dayvid Figler, is on point with questions and the show offers a concise description of the challenge and potential solutions. It turns out that Dayvid also worked as a trial lawyer though, so perhaps not many reporters will be able to simply summon that level of command to shape the conversation. Nonetheless, these two shows are wonderfully informative.

The first episode sets up the second, which is where I want to spend more time. Dayvid's questions help Sean explain what broadband is and why some neighborhoods are left behind - one of the more common questions we see on this subject. They discussed who owns existing networks and what fiber is and why we should care.

Dayvid lays the groundwork for the second show by asking why competition hasn't solved the problem of why people are frustrated with their Internet service and Sean explains that while there is no one-size-fits-all solution, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance believes communities need to take action to improve their service.

The second episode features Brian Mitchell, Director of the Nevada State Office of Science and Innovation. No relation to me, Christopher Mitchell, or my boss, Stacy Mitchell (none of us are related - there are just a lot of Mitchells, ok?).

Predictions for 2023 - Episode 535 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

Community Broadband Bits

This week on the show, the staff get together to bend their collective imagination to what we expect to see as the biggest news stories of 2023. Returning to join Christopher are Sean Gonsalves, Christine Parker, Emma Gautier, and Ry Marcattilio to discuss the BEAD funding rollout, mapping, the current state of preemption laws, Starry, the FCC, and more. 

Who will be right? Wrong? We'll have to wait until December to find out!

This show is 46 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed

Transcript below. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.