It's the final day: will Penn. Gov. sign the bill? The Wall Street Journal reports that Verizon and Philadelphia may sign an agreement that allows Philadelphia to proceed on its municipal wireless project regardless of a new state law that may have been signed or vetoed at this point. (The deadline is midnight Nov. 30 and this list of bills doesn't include it.)
While the article quotes at least one attorney stating that Verizon doesn't have the power to grant exceptions to the law, the law authorizes Verizon and other incumbent carriers to respond to requests by municipalities. Right there in the last version of House Bill 30, the proposed law reads:
A political subdivision may offer advanced or broadband services if the political subdivision has submitted a written request for the provision of such service to the local exchange telecommunications company serving the area and, within six months of the request, the local exchange telecommunications company has not agreed to provide the data speeds requested. If the local exchange telecommunications company agrees to provide the data speeds requested, then it must do so within 18 months of the request.
Philadelphia could immediately write Verizon (or wait until June 30, 2005, six months before the law's grandfather clause hits for deployed systems) and Verizon could immediately waive its right to build such a network. That's clearly within the law even as a layperson reads it.
However, Verizon and Philadelphia might be talking about an extra-legal agreement that doesn't follow this process, and it seems unclear whether the state law would supercede the enforcement of such a side agreement allowing Verizon to later change its mind without legal repercussions.
One might also read this provision noting that the exemption doesn't state precisely what services need to be requested or offered. If a town requests a provision with 100-percent coverage and Verizon doesn't provide 100-percent coverage within 18 months or declines to do so, then does the political subdivision have the right to proceed? Unclear. Also, could a network be built and operated for free until such a point as the 18 months have passed?
There are a lot of ifs in this bill. [Thanks to Ross for list of bills governor signed]
Update: Local report indicates the governor still hasn't decided as of this morning, but a top aide says that even if the bill is signed, some Philadelphia compromise could be worked out.