The Pennsylvania law requiring municipalities to get approval from telcos to build their own for-fee networks just keeps spawning more reporting and writing: Coverage of the bill's progress to law has certainly reawakened a broader interest in the impact and extent of these laws, along with the telcos and cable companies involvement in suppressing local exchange competition.
A letter to The Inquirer from an attorney involved on the municipal side of the equation for utilities disputes whether Philadelphia should build its own network. He makes interesting points about Philly's own abilities and its own anti-competitive behavior. If Philly bid out to have a private contractor--a CLEC, even--build and operate a vendor-neutral network, this would probably answer three of his four concerns.
Jim Hu reports at News.com about the marketing and lobbying carried out by telcoms to crush efforts to build local data, cable, and telecom networks. The article cites incumbents talking about how investments in infrastructure and operations are gambles for local municipalities, while they're proven business initiatives for the operators--even as the operators claim unfair advantages in costs to municipalities. That's a contradiction I'd like to see resolved. They seem to point to inexperience as the issue, but municipalities are typically contracting services to established players, some of whom build out on contract for operators.
Operators may be pulling the teeth out of municipal services to avoid the pressure of having a faster timetable to provide cost-competitive service as the story's concluding graf tells a lesson: "We only got cable modems last spring after the cities began making noise about building our own utility," said Peter Collins, Annie Collins' husband and the director of information technology for the city of Geneva. "The big part of what that proved to us is we scared the hell out of them and all of a sudden proved we don't have to rely on them for our telecom future."
Finally, the Washington Post rounds up municipal networks nationwide, focusing on the consumer rights that various legislation appears to have forestalled, according to consumer advocates. They note that these bills put control in the hands of corporations rather than, say, a public utility district or citizens or elected officials. The Supreme Court has upheld that municipalities can't control their telecom destinies if higher entities, like the state, tell them not to.
The existence of successful projects nationwide for cable, voice, and data seem to belie the contention that the incumbent operators are making. The more successful projects that roll out and offer services that incumbents weren't planning on introducing or that go far beyond those services, the harder it will be to make a compelling argument that cities can't run their own services for the benefits of their own citizens.