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Letter: Just say 'no' to proposed Broadband Deployment Act

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Generic broadband

The Broadband Deployment Act currently in the Virginia Legislature is a farce.

It doesn’t seek to deploy broadband at all; rather it seeks to prevent anyone from competing with Comcast and other members of the Virginia Cable Telecommunications Association.

Buried under 12 pages of Freedom of Information Act changes, you will find just three pages that focus on broadband “deployment”—if you can call it that.  The bill sets up an obstacle course of red tape that a municipality must go through if they want to provide broadband.

An example of this red tape is proving that giving subsidies to a for-profit company is not a valid option; basically municipalities have to prove that lining the pockets of large providers isn’t an effective solution.

Not to mention, if a municipality does get into the market the bill takes away almost every price advantage they could provide for their customers—again handing the advantage to large providers.

If someone is a Bureaucracy Ninja Warrior and manages to get through those obstacles the Bill puts in one final provision stating that any person that provides Internet services within a locality can take the municipality to court if they feel that any of their filings are incomplete, incorrect or false—in which case the municipality has to comply or cease to provide services. Who do you think would be pursuing those suits? Those with deep pockets and distaste for competition.

If the Bill wasn’t awful enough it somehow manages to get worse, when you look at the Patron of the Bill in the Virginia Legislature, Delegate Kathy Byron from the Lynchburg area. Delegate Byron sits on the Virginia Broadband Advisory Council with Ray LaMura, President of the Virginia Cable Telecommunications Association (VCTA). 

VCTA has given Byron $15,000 in donations and her overall donation haul from the Technology and Communications sector is upwards of $140,000.  Makes you wonder if VCTA handed Byron the language for the Bill at a Broadband Advisory Council meeting or when they handed her a campaign donation.

LaMura himself was on a Republican Blog, Bearing Drift, last week defending the VCTA and Bill:

The VCTA believes that the General Assembly should debate and establish a state policy to determine if local governments should be risking public dollars to build duplicative networks competing with the private sector that it also regulates, taxes and serves as the gatekeeper to the rights of way used to deploy broadband. We say no, and here’s why.

There are still Virginians, mostly in rural areas, without broadband service. As such, taxpayer funds should be prioritized for getting these residents broadband service, not building more broadband to people and businesses that already have it.

Suddenly the VCTA, a trade association built to lobby for the cable and telecommunication industry, is concerned about how municipalities in Virginia are spending their tax dollars? Oh right, because there’s a chance that money will not be going into their pocket. However, they are happy to let municipalities foot the bill when it comes to residents that don’t have broadband currently—rural localities that won’t produce profits instantaneously. 

We don’t need more government regulations, particularly ones being pushed by the private sector to deter competition. What we need in Fauquier County is real deployment of broadband, which is why the Board of Supervisors has made that one of our top priorities for 2017.

Please contact your Virginia State Delegates and Virginia State Senators to let them know you oppose any such legislation. 

Rick Gerhardt

Supervisor, Cedar Run Magisterial District

Chairman, Fauquier Broadband Advisory Committee

Senator Jill Vogel: jillvogel@senate27.com

Delegate Michael Webert: michaelwebertfordelegate@gmail.com

Delegate Mark Coles: Delegate@MarkLCole.com

Delegate Scott Ligamfelter: va31st@gmail.com

Link 1, HB 2108: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?171+ful+HB2108+pdf

Link 2, VPAP: http://www.vpap.org/committees/123703/donors_sector_totals/

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