Senator John Ensign of Nevada, who is currently facing accusations of sponsoring a bill to help Southwest Airlines almost immediately after the chairman of Southwest donated money to his campaign, is making a ton of news today for introducing a sweeping telecom reform bill that would dismantle most of the much maligned Telecom Act of 1996. There's some good and some bad in the bill, but it's basically giving incumbents everything they could hope for, which is why it's not at all surprising that they're absolutely thrilled by the bill. It would get rid of all local and state franchising for any video offering -- which, probably does make sense. It would also remove requirements for line sharing -- which has pros and cons, but probably isn't as big an issue as some are making it out to be. The bill would also ban muni broadband efforts, which, as we've described repeatedly, is a pointless and silly regulation. If other providers adequately provided broadband service there would be no need for muni-broadband. Banning muni-broadband is basically admitting that incumbents are doing a bad job of providing service to certain communities -- but don't want to be forced to improve. While it's good to get some discussion going on reforming telecom, it seems like this bill is weighted too heavily in favor of big incumbents, rather than in improving overall competition across the market. Either way, it seems unlikely that it will get very far this year.
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