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More on HB 6456

by: InterrupT

Sat Dec 02, 2006 at 12:28:02 PM EST

I was asked for some more info on HB 6456 after my last post, so here goes.

I am on the fence about this bill.  Michigan needs more than just Comcast (or whom ever may have the small part of Michigan that Comcast doesn't cover) offering terrestrial video services.  But this bill isn't perfect.  I think I would fully support this bill if it included provisions insisting the service be rolled out to all parts of the state not just the wealthy, most profitable parts.  (The bill states that 25% of the customers enrolled in the service must be low income within 3 years, and 50% within 6 years so that is at least a start.  But it also states that if proving video through the phone line, IPTV, it does not have to service an area larger than what it already services.)

Google is the entity pushing the hardest for net neutrality in this bill, and as mentioned in my previous post, for good reason.  The other groups that have jumped on board over this issue have done it for much the same reason Google has, to raise awareness of the issue.  Part of the problem is, the reporting on this issue hasn't been very good.  Most articles about the bill only talk about Google's opposition to the bill in regards to net neutrality making it seem like this bill deals much more with the internet than it does.  (It only mentions the internet four times and once it is in regards to advertising, and once in the definition of IPTV.)

Another group opposed to the bill is local municipalities.  They throw around a lot of reasons why they are against it, but really it boils down to money.  Local governments make the decisions right now as to who gets to operate in any given area, in exchange for a list of provisions and a nice little franchising fee, the company gets to operate in that area.  A lot of numbers are being tossed around as far as how much local governments could lose if this bill passed, but all of them I have seen look largely over estimated.  When those numbers do get published, all local monies are pooled into one, making the loss per city look much larger than it actually will be.  The bill actually provides for some of the money collected from the franchising fees to be given to the local municipalities, but they argue that would not be as much as they would get if they themselves issued the franchise.

The local municipalities other qualm with this bill is that it will take away local bargaining control.  Right now the local governments can bargain with the telecos, stating that if they want to operate in the area they have to give free cable to prisons, schools, and other public buildings.  They can also request public access channels, and define the areas that the company must provide services for.  This new bill will take control over these areas from the local government and give it to the state.  The local municipalities argue that doing so will take away the local access channels and take way the free cable to prisons and schools,  however that is not the case.  It will not take local access away, but instead will make the requirement and the number that must be offered uniform across the state.  The bill actually states that  the same amount of local access channels that are provided now is required if the company wants to operate in a given area. Also I think this will give us more bargaining control over things like free access for schools since they will be bargaining  to cover the entire state verses one town  None of these issues seems to be really striking a chord with the Michigan people so now some local municipalities have jumped on the net neutrality band wagon and are stating that the new bill will leave large areas of the state not covered by any service. 

There are also a couple smaller arguments they raise as well.  They list right-of-away issues (where the new wires will be ran, what poles can the new wires go on, will they need new poles) that would have to be somewhat rethought as a reason against this bill.  As I see it rights-of-ways have been figured out many times in the past, they should be able to be figured out again.  Local municipalities argue that consumers will have to complain to the state rather than local governments in order for their issues to be heard and therefore it will take longer for complaints to be resolved.  To me, this is a very bold augment to be made since my local government has been bullied in the past from Comcast.  Our government complained to Comcast that we are over paying for our service compared to other towns and cities.  The city council stated that Ann Arbor pays the same amount of money that we do, but gets a lot more channels, something in the order of 10-15 more than us.  Comcast said they were not going to lower their rates and they would not give us more channels.

Yet another argument against this bill is, heavy opposition to and a dislike of AT&T.  Right now AT&T is pushing for this bill to go through so they can begin to offer terrestrial video services (their IPTV which sends cable programing through the internet) in Michigan.  People argue that this bill is really a give away to AT&T since it would allow them to expand their IPTV which right now is only in a few areas of the country.  This bill really isn't designed to be any kind of giveaway, right now AT&T has shown the most interest in providing a service in Michigan that they can not provide right now.  That is not to say that some other company might not went to offer their services in Michigan in the future as well.

All in all, I don't think the bill is bad, but it could use some work.  I don't think it needs to be completely rewritten as some have called for (this bill already is a compromise of an earlier bill that tried to set up multiple terrestrial video services in Michigan), but a couple extra items could help making it easier for some to swallow.  I love the idea of opening up competition in Michigan.  As far as net neutrality goes, I am not that worried about it at the state level, yes it would send a message to Washington, but it would do little to ensure an actual neutral internet.  Also, something that has been brought to my attention is that if the Telecos actually do go to a two tiered system and congress did nothing about it, they would take their fight to the Department of Justice's Anti-trust devision.

Mini disclaimer: I am not an expert on this bill, but I have read parts of it (it's 24 pages long) and have read some reporting on it prior to the whole net neutrality issue being raised, along with a bunch after the issue was raised.  Also I am very, very fed up with Comcast and their very poor service and insanely high prices.  But I also was Telecommunications major at MSU.

Here are a couple of links explaining the anti-trust route Google may take 

Here is a link to the bill

InterrupT :: More on HB 6456
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More on HB 6456 | 1 comments
Well, the Detroit News has now come out and endorsed HB 6456, I don't know how that makes me feel.  While I still don't think this is the best possible bill to address this issue, I tend to lead towards thinking it could be good.  I think I feel a little dirty now.

Here the link to the article

More on HB 6456 | 1 comments

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