MI: Senate and House Bills Update

Posted on May 3, 2007 - 7:33am.

from: Blandin on Broadband

Senate & House Telecommunications Bills Update

I love when people help me out with information! Towards that end I was delighted to speak today with Anne Higgins from the Minnesota League of Cities on the statewide cable franchising bill.

One thing I had missed in an earlier blog post was where the bill is going next. I had said that it will be going to the Committee on Commerce and Labor but it sounds as if it will get pulled back into the Telecommunications Regulation and Infrastructure Division after the first of the year. Also it seems as if Qwest has plans to try local cable franchises between now and the first of the year to see how accommodating local entities are.

Representative Johnson also mentioned getting together a working group or two to discuss the bill further and there was a mention of getting someone to talk about the FCC ruling on video conferencing. Elizabeth Emerson, committee administrator, at (651) 296-7175 or elizabeth.emerson@house.mn is the one to contact about the working groups.

One interesting aspect of the potential move is that there is no overlap in members of the Telecommunications Regulation and Infrastructure Division and the Committee on Commerce. It seems as if the learning curve could be potentially pretty steep.

I have not been following the bill as closely in the Senate I did finally listen to the archive of the meeting from April 24.

The hearing would be interesting to anyone who is new to telecommunications issues. Here are my brief notes on the entire hearing, which addressed a couple of telecommunications issues:

First - no one testified so the discussion was fairly brief. The goal it seems was really to get these issues on the table and to propose to look into the various topics further next year.

Senator Wergin proposes a bill (SF 671) to look into a bill that would address cable packaging. The goal would be to require cable companies to provide channels on an a la carte basis, not just in packaged programs.

John Follard introduces 3 principles that influence telecommunications
1. Federal regulation
2. Create a level playing field
3. Evolution of competitive markets

Ed Garvy from the Department of Commerce talks about the landscape of the telecommunications industry.

These folks need state certification:

  • 90 incumbent local exchange carriers in MN
  • 340 long distance companies in MN
  • 175 competitive local exchange carriers

These folks don’t:

  • Wireless, VoIP, cable

This discrepancy in regulation causing an uneven playing field.

Senator Olson introduces a bill related to cell phones (SF 833). The goal is to protect consumers. The plan is to require wireless companies to:

  • provide copies of contracts
  • clearly detail increases in rates and fees for early termination
  • separate vendors fees from government mandated fees
  • give notice of third party fees

Senator Sparks introduces SF 2216- the video competition act. The goal is provide more competition to meet consumer needs/interests. The plan is to streamline entry for video service providers, such as IPTV.

John Stanoch from Qwest described much of the bill.

The goal is to:

  • Give choice to consumers
  • Lower price through competition
  • Level the playing field

The bill includes:

  • No requirements for build outs
  • No redlining allowed
  • Informal process to handle complaints

Qwest does not currently have a plan to enter the market as the technology is not there yet – but Qwest is watching AT&T and their IPTV experiments.

Municipalities do not support the bill because:

  • Loss of local control of right away
  • Loss of local control of service
  • Potential loss of revenue
  • Potential problems with dispute resolution
  • Plan to keep public access programming at status quo
  • Cable companies are de facto monopolies – not actual monopolies

Iowa recently passed a similar bill.

Senator Prettner Solon introduces SF 1918 to promote high speed internet access. Former Senator Steve Kelley discusses it.

The new bill would:

  • Set a goal of statewide high speed internet access
  • Set up a director to manage broadband in the state
  • Set up an advisory committee

We need a state policy that recognizes multiple tools. Big businesses do not necessarily want ad hoc policies. Recently PacketFront was in town talking about the idea of the Open Network. The advantage there was that the network was separated from provisioning of services. So the city built a terrific network and the vendors (incumbent and new) ended up using open network to provide services.

The committee and director could address a number of issues:

  • State-base universal service funds
  • Public ownership of infrastructure

The Senate does not need to consider cost, issues of network, or other issues in this bill. Just consider creating the infrastructure to create a director, advisory committee, and goal to address these issues.

( categories: MINNESOTA | State Franchises )