Where not Why Incumbents Failed in Texas?


As you may or may not know, Texas legislature failed to pass a bill that would have banned municipal networks. Bill Gurley, highlights that incumbents had 160 lobbyists in Texas, one per district really, trying to get municipal networks banned. He lauds the organization of the pro-muni broadband community, which has been quick to declare victory.

The reason the pro-broadband movement was successful is because they organized, they gathered the real data on the success of municipal wireless deployments, and they were able to inform the citizens about this effort by the incumbents and their key legislators to use regulation to restrict competition.

Bill might be slightly off the mark in his post, and the pro-broadband folks might be quick to take credit for something that was more accidental. Glenn Fleishman rightly points out

The bill failed not because of the municipal part, but because, along with another bill, the senate and house couldn’t agree on how to reconcile them. Included in the bills was a proposal to eliminate local cable franchise control, which the telcos wanted to allow them easier entry into the television market without having to negotiate local deals with each town, and deregulation elements that would free incumbents from a number of responsibilities while releasing them from tariffs.

That’s the bit which is causing a lot of heartache in the executive suites of the incumbents, who have now started campaigning for a federal broadband policy, knowing very well that perhaps they might find receptive ears in Washington. Believe me, we have not heard the last of banning municipal networks, and this issue will come up again and again and again!


Harold Feld

From Maine to India to Florida, there seem to be an awful lot of accidents.

Yes, SBC shot themselves in the foot big time by linking the two issues. The franchising issue brought out mayors who don’t have any plan to do muni deployments, and the deployment issue brought in a lot of folks who normally wouldn’t have paid much attention to a franchising issue.

But that doesn’t make this an “accident” any more than the fact that the Florida munis were willing to spend money to protect their turf was an “accident” or that
mayors in Indiana were willing to organize to fight was an “accident.” Two overlapping interests saw how to help each other, and they did. Now they have a relationship if the SBC folks try to push this separately.

It is also interesting to contrast this to Nebraska, where the munis chose to try to cut a deal with the anti-muni forces. They got rolled in the last days of the legislature because they had no one to help them.

Happily, the industry continues to be buffdled by democracy in action, so I expect we’ll keep having “accidents.”

Harold Feld
Media Access Project

Bill Gurley

To suggest that, “had the cable part been figured out,” muni-wireless would have been banned (as Fleishman does) is waaaayyyyy off base. The incumbents were unable (and failed) at getting the Texas Senate to pick up this cause. For anyone that understands how the two parts of our government works that equals failure (no new law created). More over, the reason that the anti-muni wireless supporters chose to attach it to another bill is “precisely” because they knew it wouldn’t get passed by itself.

Let’s be realistic about what happened.

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