Correlating hypocrisy: In Pennsylvania, incumbents are really concerned about taxpayers' money being spent without their oversight or on projects that don't benefit every single last citizen in equal measure every day of every week.
In Alabama, SBC and Alltel (but not Cox) support Senate Bill 980, which offers a huge gift in the form of reduced taxes--thus an increased reliance on taxpayer dollars to offer services--for those that are willing to build broadband in rural and non-rural counties to the tune of $36.5 million.
It would be interesting for a progressive Texas legislator to ask SBC at a hearing why they're willing to take government money on the one hand in one state but decry the use of government money on the other hand in Texas.
The cable operators are part of the opposition, says the Arkansas Democrat Gazette: "But opponents--notably cable operators such as Cox Communications and Comcast as well as small, rural telephone companies--say the bill is too open-ended and unfairly provides government subsidies for work they’ve already done without incentives." Exactly the question asked in Pennsylvania. These tax breaks amount to twisting arms to create a monopoly.
SBC used the ZIP code argument. A spokesman said, "A year or two ago, Mississippi passed broadband incentives that led to all but 3 percent of its ZIP codes lacking broadband access — and the national average is 6 percent." This argument has been shown elsewhere to be bankrupt. ZIP codes circle areas of citizens; larger areas have fewer ZIP codes. Install the most convenient broadband in that area and you may have met a legal test or a statistical one. But it's forum non conveniens for people who don't life in the limited broadband areas in many of those ZIP codes.
As even-handed as I have tried to be about whether municipal broadband makes sense, it's awfully clear that instead of trying to encourage a commercial monopoly to do business in a place they don't want to by offering them negative money (less they spend, but still reducing government revenue), that this $36.5 million potential dollars could be used for large seed projects to build vendor-neutral networks which would allow citizens to subscribe to local ISPs, Earthlink, MSN, SBC, Cox, etc.
I think legislators are using the only blunt instruments they have available to them here, even if it doesn't make sense.
It's worse than that. Legislatures submit bills written by lobbyists. It doesn't have to do with hammers vs. scalpels. It has to do with dancing with the one that brought you to the dance.
In Texas, the core of HB789 -- the telecom restructuring bill -- was supposed to be a trade. Telcos get freedom to set rates on basic service, and give up $300 million in universal subsidies.
The version of HB789 that left the committee still allows the companies to raise rates, but postpones giving up the subsidies for two years while the Public Utility Commission studies the issue.
It is regulatory capture, with the regulators enjoying the state of bondage.
The vendor-neutral infrastructure definitely looks attractive when compared with the anti-capitalist love-fest of a regulated industry.
A couple of questions about how this would work, though. Financing would need to be bonds, not grants, since short-term grants seem like a bad structural match for networks that need maintance.
Another question about technology and financing. IP gear tends to follow Moore's law, and today's wireless networks are going to be obsolete in five years. Maybe that's just a financing issue, too.
A good question to ask the city managers who are deploying networks today.