Monday, February 29, 2016

AT&T donated to Missouri legislative committee that voted to limit municipal broadband expansion

"A Missouri legislative committee last week approved a bill that would limit the spread of municipal broadband networks, helping private Internet service providers such as AT&T avoid competition," Jon Brodkin reports for Ars Technica. Municipal broadband has been used to provide high-speed Internet to rural areas that commercial telecommunications companies have been unwilling to serve.

The decision comes a few months after AT&T donated a total of $62,500 to political committees in Missouri, including "$20,000 to the House Republican Campaign Committee, $20,000 to the Missouri Democratic State Committee, $7,500 to the Missouri Republican Party, and $15,000 to the Missouri Senate Campaign Committee. One of the donations is listed by the Missouri Ethics Commission as occurring just two weeks ago, but we’ve been told it was made in September 2015 and not deposited until this month because the original check was lost." CenturyLink and Comcast have also donated to a majority of the committee members.

"AT&T’s opposition to municipal broadband is well-known. In Tennessee, Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) recently called AT&T 'the most powerful lobbying organization in this state by far' and a 'villain' in the state’s municipal broadband battles," Brodkin writes.

"The new bill would mostly close the 'Internet-type services' exception going forward, but it would allow existing networks to continue and allow new ones to be built under some circumstances. City or town Internet services would have to be approved by a majority of voters in the municipality unless certain conditions are met. No vote has to be held if fewer than 50 percent of residents have access to Internet service or if the municipal network will cost less than $1 million over five years. Before a vote could be held, municipal leaders would be required to complete a financial study on the proposed network." (Read more)

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