In 2012, Google finally rolled out its Google Fiber initiative in Kansas City. It chose the city largely because it offered the best deal and incentives that made rollout fast and affordable for Google. Time Warner Cable and other ISPs complained that they should get the same treatment, and now they’re trying prevent other cities in the state from doing the same thing.
The Consumerist reports that the Kansas state legislature has introduced a new bill called the Municipal Communications Network and Private Telecommunications Investment Safeguard Act. In essence, the bill would prevent cities from rolling out their own networks or partnering with private enterprises to roll out networks in the name of safeguarding competition.
Of course, as we all know, the traditional ISP business is completely devoid of competition. Google Fiber was the first real competition Time Warner Cable had ever faced and things got really petty for a while. The ISP soon realized that it needed to offer better service though and increased network speeds for Kansas City residents in response.
To prevent itself or others from having to actually compete, the Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association introduced the above bill through president John Federico. The bill says that municipalities may not directly, or indirectly, “offer or provide to one or more subscribers, video, telecommunications, or broadband service” or “purchase, lease, construct, maintain, or operate any facility for the purpose of enabling a private business or entity to offer, provide, carry, or deliver video, telecommunications, or broadband service to one or more subscribers.”
Now, the funny thing about this bill is that it would be an excellent bill if the ISP market was full of competition. You don’t want government getting in the way of a free market, right? Unfortunately, ISPs are doing everything they can to tighten their local monopolies and have set up agreements to not compete in regions where another ISP operates. In response, cities started to set up their own networks or cooperate with private entities to introduce competition and the incumbent ISPs don’t like that one bit.
So, where do we go from here? According to Ars Technica, the bill has already been referred to the Kansas Senate’s Committee on Commerce where it will be discussed next week. Kansas residents can only hope that their legislators don’t fall for the ISPs’ lies of decreased competition in the face of state interference.
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