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Kansas To Nix Expansion of Google Fiber and Municipal Broadband 430

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-in-my-state dept.
symbolset writes: "Consumerist, among others, is reporting on a Kansas bill to restrict municipal support of broadband expansion. Purportedly to ensure a 'level playing field' to encourage commercial expansion in this area, these bills are usually referred to as oligopoly protection acts. Everywhere they have been implemented expansion of new broadband technology stops. In this specific case no municipal entity in Kansas will be able to enter the same sort of agreements that enabled Google Fiber. From the bill:
Except with regard to unserved areas, a municipality may not, directly or indirectly:
(1) Offer to provide to one or more subscribers, video, telecommunications or broadband service; or
(2) 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."
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Kansas To Nix Expansion of Google Fiber and Municipal Broadband

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  • But Kansas! (Score:5, Funny)

    by N3tRunner (164483) * on Friday January 31, 2014 @08:09AM (#46118869)
    Darn, I'm sure Google was excited by the prospect of providing broadband access to the tens of people who live in municipalities in Kansas.
    • by ryanmetcalf (898126) <ryanmetcalf@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Friday January 31, 2014 @08:20AM (#46118931) Homepage
      Hey, Kansas is more populus than 16 other states in the US. There's at least hundreds of us!
    • Darn, I'm sure Google was excited by the prospect of providing broadband access to the tens of people who live in municipalities in Kansas.

      Actually, yes. KCK was the first municipality that Google fiber signed a deal with. Mostly because one entity (the city) owned all the plant and rights of way, so it was a simple arrangement between WyCo/KCK government and Google.

  • Freedom! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 31, 2014 @08:12AM (#46118881)

    Freedom for Oligarchs. Higher prices for you.

  • by wbr1 (2538558) on Friday January 31, 2014 @08:13AM (#46118885)
    Google needs to spend more time buying^h^h^h^h^h^h talking to legislators. It sucks that this is how it works nor, but government is for the people withe the most power and money, and with corporate personhood, this is how it rolls.
  • BWAHAHAHAHA! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smooth wombat (796938) on Friday January 31, 2014 @08:15AM (#46118901) Homepage Journal
    I love subsection b of Section 2. Quote:

    encourage the development and widespread use of technological advances in providing video, telecommunications and broadband services at competitive rates; and

    That will never happen. Under no circumstances will people be able to get any of those services at competitive rates. What they will get are high prices for slow speeds.

    Looks like Verizon/Comcast/whomever was successful in bribing Kansas State House members into bringing this bill up for consideration.

    Gotta love fascism. Nothing like getting shafted by the government AND private industry.
    • Re:BWAHAHAHAHA! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by riis138 (3020505) on Friday January 31, 2014 @08:30AM (#46119009)
      You speak the truth. In Michigan where I reside, Comcast and Verizon have a crushing monopoly in the home isp market using decades old technology. While our broadband speeds are not the slowest in the nation by any means, there is no competition for them to build and upgrade existing infrastructure. Something like Google fiber is one of the only hopes we have of getting some real competition in the area.
    • Re:BWAHAHAHAHA! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by argStyopa (232550) on Friday January 31, 2014 @09:37AM (#46119509) Journal

      "...encourage the development and widespread use of technological advances in providing video, telecommunications and broadband services at competitive rates..."

      At the same time that they hand out local monopolies to the carriers.
      BRILLIANT. Not contradictory at all.

    • Are Americans ready to admit they don't have a free market,that they do not have a truly capitalist system, but have a government completely beholden to the rich and corporations?

      I truly feel I'm watched the rise, am watching the decline, and soon, will be watching the fall of the USA.

  • by xtal (49134) on Friday January 31, 2014 @08:16AM (#46118903)

    What's so hard to understand?

    Municipalities should own infrastructure.

    We have a situation where the roads of the future are privately owned, gated, and tolled. The rest of the world is preparing to steamroller over you.

    Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    • by gaudior (113467)

      We have a situation where the roads of the future are privately owned, gated, and tolled.

      Snowcrash was a warning, not a blueprint.

    • by bws111 (1216812) on Friday January 31, 2014 @10:46AM (#46120219)

      I love this idea that municipal ownership would magically fix everything. What, exactly, are you smoking?

      In my area the electric, gas, cable, internet, and telephone utilities are private. The water, sewer, and streets are municipal.

      So what are the track records of each? Well, we do get an occasional power outage, mostly from falling tree limbs during storms. However, the electric company is constanly out trimming trees to try and avoid that. There is an occasional gas leak. When that happens the gas company is there and fixes the problem very quickly. I have way more channels and options available on cable than I ever had before - seems the cable company must have been improving its infrastructure. My internet connection is faster and more reliable than it ever has been, and I can't remember the last time there was an outage. Don't use POTS anymore, but can't recall ever having an outage when I did.

      On the other hand, in my small town there is a water main break at least once a month. Their excuse? 'The system is very old and needs to be updated.' Are there any plans to do such an update? Nope.

      A city near me had a 100 year old sanitary sewer main break which flooded several houses with raw sewage. The houses had to be torn down. They also have a collapsed sewer line that caused a sinkhole in the middle of a busy residential street. The street has been closed for 2 YEARS. So what are they doing? 'Deciding how to proceed'. They also have a major street with a lot of traffic lights. At one point the lights were pretty well synchronized so traffic moved smoothly. Something happened and they got out of sync - traffic is a nightmare. After a few months of this people were complaining rather loudly. The citys response? 'It would take the city electrician A WHOLE DAY to retime the lights - we can't afford that'. Been like that for about 5 years now.

      Yeah, municipal ownership sure is a magic bullet.

      • by swb (14022) on Friday January 31, 2014 @12:15PM (#46121147)

        I think you're stacking the deck here pretty unfavorably.

        In Minneapolis, the water utility is self funding and has done infrastrucure upgrades. Our water plant is state of the art, with filtration down to .03μ. They have been engaged in a multi-year project to reline water mains to prevent corrosive sclerosis of the iron piping.

        I can't think of any specific catastrophes with the sewer system and I know for a fact that upgrades of the treatment plants are ongoing as I drive by one frequently and know it has been updated and expanded because I've seen the construction, plus Federal water quality rules would be unlikely to let them get worse.

        Gas and electric utilities, while private in most places, are also heavily regulated. The state PUC has turned down or drastically reduced rate increases; the only reason they trim trees is to contain their own costs from damage, the cost is built into the states' approved rate structure and an inherent safety concern over downed lines. Don't kid yourself into thinking its done as a consumer initiative, especially with how badly they butcher the trees. Gas line maintenance is also heavily driven not by consumer need but by safety. There have been at least two gas line explosions I can think of in the last 10 years despite this.

        Cable TV prices have oustripped inflation by nearly 10%, yet performance has stagnated and poor service is pretty much common, and cable does everything it can to resist any pro-consumer initiatives. Ala carte pricing where it exists is a joke, explicitly structured to be uncompetitive. Cable card was resisted with maximum effort to maintain device rental monopolies. Internet service remains slow, expensive and fraught with all manner of rules and restrictions, and likely to get worse with the recent loss of net neutrality rules.

        I dont think most people want a purely municiple cable TV, I think what they want is a municipal fiber backbone that can be leased out to private operators to offer services. Cable doesn't want this because it would mean choice and choice would cut out their rent seeking and just further the march to internet delivered content from someone else.

      • by necro81 (917438)

        On the other hand, in my small town there is a water main break at least once a month. Their excuse? 'The system is very old and needs to be updated.' Are there any plans to do such an update? Nope.

        Probably because every time the municipal utility wanted to raise rates to cover a bond issue or to enact a sensible maintenance schedule, the city council got all pissy that their water rates would increase from "practically free" to "what it actually costs" Or when the state DOT wants to raise the gas tax (w

  • Car analogy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by StripedCow (776465) on Friday January 31, 2014 @08:16AM (#46118909)

    Imagine every transport company building their own road system, and what that would do to competition, and prices.

    In other words, companies should not be able to have direct control over basic infrastructure. That's what we (should) have a government for.

    • On the car analogy... Imagine that same road system requires a specific type of car to drive on it.

      Actually, many toll roads are privately owned (For example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I... [wikipedia.org] and to a lesser extent http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org] ).
      What's funny about the I-185 toll road is how absolutely bad things are:
      1) There is almost no mileage/time savings vs the primary highways
      2) The tolls have skyrocketed over the past few years because it's basically a useless road (It now costs $6 cash
  • by sosume (680416)

    Can someone explain me how this is possible and what the reasoning is behind this law? I mean, lawmakers are chosen by the people, for the people, land of the free, etc, how can that lead to a law forbidding the people to self-organise? It seems a bit paradoxal, one would expect that these lawmakers will be removed after the next election.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday January 31, 2014 @08:19AM (#46118927) Homepage

    Communism and Capitalism both have some things in common. Not only do they both begin with the letter C, but they are both "great ideas" and neither ever actually happen.

    Every time I see a story about a municipality taking their lack of development and progress into their own hands, some previously uninterested party steps in and says, "This is my territory and you can't build where we don't want to build." On its face it's ridiculous. They want to cherry pick -- to invest in the markets which offer the best returns. We all get that. But to deny anyone else the opportunity to operate in less favored zones is 100% anti-competitive and 100% anti-capitalist. Trying to keep other parties from participating in the marketplace takes the free out of free markets.

    I think it's about time there were some public hearings on the situation so that we can get them to say things they don't mean and can later be held to account on.

  • A little misleading (Score:5, Informative)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday January 31, 2014 @08:19AM (#46118929) Homepage Journal

    I think the bill is a bad idea, but I don't think it would stop Google from deploying fiber elsewhere in Kansas. It doesn't do anything to prevent deployments, it just prevents municipalities from offering the special treatment that helped get KC selected as the first city out of 1100 candidates.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      So what do you do when you are in an area that isn't going to be high profit and already has an incumbent with no interest in providing good and reasonably priced service? Providing incentives for other companies to come in and build infrastructure and create competition sounds like a good way to fix that. Otherwise it's minimum speed minimum cap ADSL forever.

      • So what do you do when you are in an area that isn't going to be high profit and already has an incumbent with no interest in providing good and reasonably priced service?

        Perhaps a potential competitor could ask residents to help fund the initial cost of building the infrastructure. Perhaps the company could promise that every resident who offers a certain amount of start-up capital will receive free service for some period of time upon completion of the infrastructure. Or perhaps the competitor could offer stock to the residents, so that the residents could make their money back over time if the company is successful. Either way, the municipal should stay out of the negotia

    • As someone who lives in the area, let me be really clear what's going on here.

      The Kansas City, Kansas (KCK)/Wyandotte County area is largely working class, a lot of immigrants or first generation citizens. Basically, Democrats. Yes, they do exist in Kansas. This is also the area that has had the most growth in "cool stuff" over the last few years: The national champion soccer team's stadium is there (Sporting KC), the NASCAR track is there, and they just finished building a HUGE 2-building office space t

  • by dyfet (154716) on Friday January 31, 2014 @08:24AM (#46118957) Homepage

    The law of unintended consequences... While Section 3b, in regards to "video services", makes clear reference to "through wireline facilities located at least in part in the public rights-of-way", and clearly is about cable tv (no thread to netflicks for example), 3d is a very different animal:

    (d) "Telecommunications service" means the two-way transmission of
    signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, messages, data or other
    information of any nature by wire, radio, light waves or other
    electromagnetic means, offered to the public generally.

    Hmm...does not seem to be based on actual broadband service providers or any specific limitations. The way it is written would seem to exclude any form of VoIP or chat "service" (jabber, skype, etc)!!!! WTF?! Way to go Kansas!

  • I don't have any doubt about the real motivations behind this, but I have to wonder...

    How do the politicians pushing bills like this present them as anything but pure greed and cronyism with a straight face? I mean, I really can't come up with even a plausible cover story to make this more palatable. Even the old standby of "protecting jobs" doesn't fly, because someone still needs to run the networks, and seriously, how do you sell "We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company" as a private
    • by gaudior (113467) on Friday January 31, 2014 @08:45AM (#46119103) Homepage

      Then again, maybe the politicians just don't even bother trying to have a cover story anymore, because they know we already consider them all nothing but self-serving asshats, yet the majority will still vote them back into office again and again and again.

      The only way things will change is to always vote out the incumbent. Every time. Even if you agree with 100% of their positions and votes. Lets spend a few election cycles churning up the sludge. Maybe some of them will get the hint, and maybe some better people will see that they have a shot at getting in, once the old-boy network has been rattled to pieces.

    • by wbr1 (2538558)

      Then again, maybe the politicians just don't even bother trying to have a cover story anymore, because they know we already consider them all nothing but self-serving asshats, yet the majority will still vote them back into office again and again and again.

      This... most people think 'their' representative(s) are not that bad, it's the others that suck, so they vote theirs in again. All a politician has to do is sell himself to his constituents on a few issues, say look at what I have done for you (if an incumbent or holder of other political positions), and smear everyone else into oblivion. It gets lapped up, and the cycle repeats ad nauseum.

  • by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby AT comcast DOT net> on Friday January 31, 2014 @08:27AM (#46118983)

    Let's give this an honest name shall we. Why don't we call these bills Protect Oligopoly Results Kineticly act - or PORK acts. The only thing these bills do is protect the business model of existing oligopolies and prevent competition. They are inherently anti-capitalist and have no place in the US (or anywhere else in my opinion).

    Competition is a wonderful thing and those countries that have competition have much better service for much better prices and their companies still make quite a bit of money.

    • by jodido (1052890)
      Actually the countries that have the fastest internet don't have it as a result of competition, but rather as a result of major government intervention. S. Korea, for example. The other model, where the govt stands aside, is what you get in the US. Does anyone think that the Interstate Highway System (an analogy, maybe not the best, for the Internet) would have been built through "competition"? What you got through competition was the chaos of 19th century railroads.
    • Re:Honest name (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sribe (304414) on Friday January 31, 2014 @10:59AM (#46120383)

      Better idea, how about a bill which bans government from providing or subsidizing broadband in any county in which broadband (at least 5Mb/s) is available to 100% of residences. Think about it ;-)

  • by portwojc (201398) on Friday January 31, 2014 @08:34AM (#46119029) Homepage

    The bill is by "The committee on commerce" which looks to be... http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2013_14/committees/ctte_s_cmrce_1/

    You might want to contact them. We all know where / how this bill got it's start. You need to voice your opinion and remind them who they really serve.

  • by resistant (221968) on Friday January 31, 2014 @08:39AM (#46119059) Homepage Journal

    I've been observing this sort of greedy corporatism for years. We seriously need to first set up a nationally recognized, "voluntary" standard that at least four competing broadband providers should be available in each jurisdiction and then start a national nonprofit organization that relentlessly pressures non-compliant local and state governments into abolishing laws and regulations that discourage or outright prevent this kind of minimum coverage. Constant lawsuits that dig up dirt about payoffs to politicians and expose semi-monopolies would be an excellent idea as well. It may be a little early to truly establish the idea that universal access to low-cost, high-speed Internet communications is a basic human right, but it's a good propaganda tool.

    I'm a dreaming fanatic about free markets, but we don't have free markets for broadband Internet access. We have utterly corrupt corporatism. It's high time to savagely fight back against the greedy parasites at Time Warner and Cox and the rest who absolutely hate the idea of having to give up their bloated, government-protected profits.

  • by korbulon (2792438) on Friday January 31, 2014 @08:53AM (#46119157)
    Hix Nix Quix Netflix.
  • I'd be fine with this bill if it were more general purpose and forbade other types of subsidies as well. For instance, no incentives to attract movie production companies. No property tax breaks to attract large corporations. And, the big one, no municipal bonds to cover the construction of sporting venues.
  • This drives me crazy. I live in a relatively populated but rural area of North Carolina. I'm in a subdivision that started in 2008 but didn't get built out much because of the financial crash. Because of this I can't get cable Internet (they won't run a line into the subdivision) and AT&T won't bother to expand their DSL. What I pay Verizon for a measly 10GB of wireless data a month is about the same as what Google is charging it's fiber people. Stupid legislators like this will keep me in the Internet

  • Only 20% Served (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jason Levine (196982) on Friday January 31, 2014 @09:51AM (#46119607)

    The law is horrible in many ways. The three that stand out to me:

    1) Municipalities are allowed to engage in broadband efforts ONLY if 9 out of 10 homes in a census block have no broadband. This means that the big ISPs can wire up 11% of homes and call it a day. The other 89%? Too bad, but you guys aren't profitable enough to care about.

    2) Satellite and mobile is counted as broadband. Never mind that satellite would be hideously expensive or that mobile can have tiny caps compared to wired broadband. In fact, it doesn't matter if the ISP is going to charge you $200 a month for 1GB of access. That's considered available access and you can't launch a municipal broadband effort.

    3) This bill was literally written by the big ISPs who don't want competition from Google Fiber and municipal broadband. So the cries of "this will increase competition" are out-and-out lies. This is all about protecting the profits of the big ISPs by preventing municipalities from serving the non-served. The ISPs are afraid that, if municipalities are able to do this by themselves, they won't give lots of cash to Verizon, etc to build and run out networks. (Which those ISPs can then pocket, not build the networks, and lobby to keep them from having to uphold their end of the deal.)

  • Dear Google -

    Fuck Kansas. I have a better proposition for you: Finish wiring up Missouri.

    Our government is very friendly to large corporations such as yours, our residents would welcome the additional competition and higher quality service you're offering, and we have 2 major and 1 minor city in a nice, triangular geography that is quite conducive to building a state wide fiber loop.

    We'd be happy to have your business.

  • by EmagGeek (574360) <<gterich> <at> <aol.com>> on Friday January 31, 2014 @10:03AM (#46119711) Journal

    We had the same thing happen here a couple of years ago. Oconee county got fed up with the broadband players' reluctance to hook up rural parts of the county, so they decided to go in with the Feds to roll out universal fiber to all, because of the economic implications of such..

    In response, AT&T objected, said they had planned on universal coverage, and lobbied the State for a "level playing field" law that would prohibit hooking residences up to any publicly funded infrastructure where the same subsidies were not given to AT&T and other private carriers.

    The day the bill was signed into Law, the AT&T CEO declared wireline infrastructure dead, and that not one more penny would be sunk into wireline expansion in South Carolina.

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