Colorado anti-muni bill passed by House Local Govt Committee

The Colorado House Local Government Committee passed SB 05-152 yesterday with some amendments. I am posting verbatim an eyewitness account by David Hughes of what transpired yesterday. David testified at the hearing. It will make your blood boil to see how the democratic process has been usurped by one particular large telco and how certain Colorado legislators are nothing more The Colorado House Local Government Committee passed SB 05-152 yesterday with some amendments. I am posting verbatim an eyewitness account by David Hughes of what transpired yesterday. David testified at the hearing. It will make your blood boil to see how the democratic process has been usurped by one particular large telco and how certain Colorado legislators are nothing more than sockpuppets for this telco. Attention people of Colorado: I’ll bet you never knew that you voted for the Big Q!

Here’s David’s account:

“The Tuesday (April 5) hearing before the Local Government Committee of the Colorado House on Senate Bill 152 went pretty much as I expected by the end of the 4 hour hearing during which no less than 16 people testified. The hearing room was full, which somewhat surprised me – it held at least 70 besides the 7 Democrats and 6 Republicans on the Committee. (all attended)

Nine, including me, spoke out strongly against the entire bill – which prohibits any municipality from providing “advanced telecommunications services” in particular “high speed internet” unless a whole series of hoops are jumped through – from requiring an election, first refusal rights by vendors, and a whole series of hearings before it can do it, where the city is specifically prohibited from lobbying for the measure (while the vendors, including Qwest of course are free to spend any money they want to defeat the city measure). And with magnificent ambiguity the bill prohibits the cities from offering its citizens broadband if any “private services” is offered in the city – never defining what that means.

Those arguing against the bill, including the Mayor of Glenwood Springs, owner of lodges in Red Stone Colorado which doesn’t even get cell phone coverage, a lengthy and detailed recounting by Tropos of cities outside Colorado which have set up such networks (never mentioning Philadelphia), a speaker who hammered home the fact that the US is now 13th down the list – and dropping – behind other countries from Japan and Korea, to Europe in their provision of broadband. Several speakers said this would prohibit cities from even entering into JOINT public/private ventures. The City of Aurora testified against it. As did EchoStar, the Colorado-based satellite service trying to enter into the broadband market. Two savvy speakers pointed out cities do NOT have to go to a vote to building golf courses, or pools or other facilities cities build with tax money – that if the voters don’t like what the city fathers approve, they will turn them out next election. And EVERY one against the bill said it was ANTI-competitive, would impede the spread of the Internet across the state, and leave whole towns out in the cold. Two recommended the bill be tabled – indefinitely! I just flat said to kill it entirely.

About 4 speakers, from the Colorado Municipal League, the State Utilitites organization and a large School District which was already entering into joint venture with the city of Pueblo – which would be “gradfathered in” said they could support the bill “with amendments” (which LARGELY didn’t make what they are doing now illegal.)

I’ll give you TWO guesses who the staunch advocates for the bill were, who stage managed it so they could be the last speakers before the vote? You guessed it: ComCast and Qwest!

And it was utterly clear when the House “sponsor of the bill” a Ms (Cheri) Jahn from other committees of the House – who explained the bill, defended the bill, told everyone how hard they had been working right up to last night “amending” the bill to “satisfy” everyone’s “concerns”, called up the Qwest spokesman that the Qwest fix had been in from the beginning. That Qwest literally WROTE the Bill from the git go. Transparent – they didn’t even try to hide it.

It seems their deep pocket lobbyists had button hooked EVERY Committee member well in advance — as they had the Technology Committee of the Senate and ALL 35 State Senators. And of course they gave the same gobblygook about “competition” and how, if cities want broadband all they have to do is ask for it. To which Rep Mike Mansfield retorted that he, once on the city council of Manitou Springs – 3 miles and contiguous to Colorado Springs, asked starting in 1996 when Qwest was going to get broadband to Manitou and it took them EIGHT YEARS to even bring DSL (they got it only last year).

My litany included asking why, since there had been nothing stopping Wwest for the past 10 years from bringing broadband to rural Colorado towns – had they failed utterly to do it. Instead they just cherry picked the fat urban centers. Why the hell were they objecting now to unserved cities who wanted to deploy it? Nobody had an answer.

By the end of the hearing, Mansfield, my House Representative began to see what and who was the hell behind the bill. And when he asked WHY this Bill was necessary, he never got an answer. Another Committee member asked the same question – what is this bill supposed to fix that’s broken? No answer other than political bafflegab.

It became obvious near the end of the Hearing that the fix was already in by Qwest, it was THEIR bill all along (but the Committee members didn’t seem to mind. So much for good government. In fact, although Ms Jahn is an elected House member from other committees, and sponsor of the Bill in the House, she had the Qwest representative sit RIGHT next to her at the two microphone tables before the committee, and when she couldn’t explain “amendments” (we never got to see – only the committee members had them as handouts), she turned to the Qwest guy to explain them! And when she was asked what were the “secret” amendments nobody had seen yet – they weren’t ready – she admitted as the House SPONSOR of the Bill, she really didn’t know, but she promised that if they voted it in now she would insure that the amendments were okay!

So they voted on a Bill after four hours not even the Committee members ever saw a complete version.

Finally, after one set of amendments were voted on and approved, Mansfield, having heard me complain that the definition for high speed was a lousy 144 kbps, which miraculously was the very threshold Qwest wanted for ISDN, he made the amendment motion which passed to kick it up to 256kbps, saying thats closer to what the FCC says is the lowest speed that can be called “advanced services Internet”.

But by then it was clear, with only two Committee members really asking the big WHY are we doing this to the 186 cities/towns in Colorado, the majority – including all 6 Republicans, were going to vote for it to be passed onto the whole House. So it was approved. And the Qwest Anti-Municipal Bullshit Bandwagon through all 14 of their Western States rolls on.

The Bill will now go to the Full House, and even though Mansfield wants me to send him more ammunition, it is clear all the cities and towns are going to be Internet-screwed by the Big Telco.”

For the latest on proposed state barriers in the US, please go to:
http://www.baller.com/pdfs/baller_proposed_state_barriers.pdf