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Thursday, February 17, 2005

Econ. Dev. - Indiana kills anti-muni broadband bill

"Indiana kills anti-muni broadband bill" is the headline in this ZDNet story this afternoon. Some quotes:

An Indiana state bill that would have made it hard for cities to build their own broadband networks was killed on Wednesday after the proposal failed to reach a vote in the state's House of Representatives.

The decision to block Indiana's House Bill 1148 highlights a growing clash between cities looking to build their own broadband Internet networks and local phone and cable companies opposing these measures.

Supporters of the bill, including SBC Communications, which serves Indiana, were critical of the outcome. Local groups opposing the bill applauded the decision, claiming that building broadband networks would help cities attract more businesses into the area.

"Several municipalities in Indiana are already providing broadband service," said Andrea Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, lobbyist organization. "We consider it a necessary part of economic development."

Johnson pointed out that smaller cities such as Marion and Scottsburg have unveiled their own municipal networks. * * *

The public debate
Interest in public Internet systems is increasing across the country. Proposals are springing up in smaller cities such as Provo, Utah, and Chaska, Minn., and larger metropolises such as Philadelphia and parts of Los Angeles.

At the same time, the Baby Bell phone giants and cable conglomerates are aggressively lobbying state legislators to introduce laws prohibiting these efforts. In December of last year, a bill endorsed by Verizon Communications was signed into law by Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, banning cities and townships from providing "any broadband or wireless services if a fee is charged."

The bill was hotly contested by the city of Philadelphia, which plans to build its own wireless broadband network and sell it to residents at a significant discount from Verizon's DSL service. Verizon argued that cities should not be competing with private companies and that residents would see higher taxes if the network went belly-up. Philadelphia and Verizon eventually struck an 11th-hour agreement that would allow the city to go ahead with its plans.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 17, 2005 05:18 PM
Posted to Indiana Law | Indiana economic development