Broadband

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
broadband, lobbyists, missouri, muni broadband

Companies:
at&t



AT&T Buries Language In Missouri Traffic Bill To Hinder Broadband Competition

from the the-best-lawmakers-money-can-buy dept

Prompted by AT&T, Missouri passed a state law in 1997 that hamstrings towns and cities looking to build local networks to shore up broadband coverage gaps. Since then, AT&T has made repeated attempts to expand those restrictions further, fearing a growing rise in public/private partnerships from the likes of Google Fiber, Ting, or the countless towns and cities tired of AT&T's pricey, slow broadband service. After a failed attempt last year, AT&T this year introduced protectionist bill HB 2078, shortly after shoveling $62,000 in campaign contributions to state leaders.

AT&T's bills vary in scope across the twenty-odd states in which they've been passed. Some ban community broadband altogether. Some saddle towns and private partners with additional restrictions so combating the incumbent duopoly is financially impossible. Others, like HB2078, employ language that forces towns to hold time-consuming public referendums, at which point AT&T can bury the proposal with a wave of negative PR and lawyers.

All of them have tried to sow partisan discord under the pretense of AT&T just being concerned about taxpayers funding the bill for such projects. But the laws serve just one purpose: protect AT&T's stranglehold over an uncompetitive broadband market. That's obviously a much easier sale in states willing to quite literally let AT&T write state law in exchange for cash donation.

The problem for AT&T is that as Google Fiber and other similar efforts have shown a light on the benefits of public/private partnerships to shore up lagging broadband markets, AT&T's behavior has become increasingly unpopular among both political parties. So when HB2078 stalled after passing through the Missouri House committees on Utility Infrastructure and the Select Committee on Utilities earlier this year, AT&T lobbyists got decidedly more clever. They convinced Missouri House Representative Lyndall Fraker to bury the language of HB2078 into an unrelated bill dealing with Missouri traffic issues:
"The bill seems to have lost momentum since mid-March but its sponsor, Rep. Lyndall Fraker, is taking another approach to make sure his bill gets passed, come hell or high water. Session ends May 13th, so he is now banking on procedural tricks, rather than the substance of his legislation. On May 2nd, when a bill relating to traffic citations, SB 765, came before the body, Fracker proposed to amend it with language from HB 2078. Some of the amended language is even more destructive than the original proposal in HB 2078."
As Ars Technica notes, whether the bill can get conference committee approval now that the public has noticed what AT&T and Fraker attempted to do isn't clear. Though should AT&T succeed, it would only help cement Missouri as a broadband backwater, keeping consumers from fleeing to alternative broadband options as AT&T prepares to impose major new usage caps and overage fees across the majority of the ISP's markets later this month.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 5 May 2016 @ 7:45am

    I can see it! The shadow looming over Missouri as the DeATTh Star readies its anti-competitive cannons...

    Legure may say some stupid crap at times, but even this made me appreciate his hatred of AT&T. DeATTh Star. Classic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 5 May 2016 @ 8:51am

    bury the language of HB2078 into an unrelated bill dealing with Missouri traffic issues

    Is this the time when you joke that traffic jams in Missouri are probably faster than AT&T?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 5 May 2016 @ 9:04am

    Seems like a good idea

    We don't want traffic on our roads to move too fast. It's for our protection.

    Similarly we don't want traffic on the information superhighway to move too fast either. It's for ISP's protection.

    Safety first.

    Isn't a traffic bill a good place to hide this?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    scotts13 (profile), 5 May 2016 @ 9:12am

    words

    Actually, it's "shone (or shined) a light", not shown.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    afn29129 (profile), 5 May 2016 @ 9:18am

    only $62,000 ?

    Wow! how cheaply the whores sell their votes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2016 @ 9:21am

      Re: only $62,000 ?

      I concur. I am frequently startled when I see the relative trifles that our elected representatives will sell themselves for. Perhaps, they make up for that in quantity.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2016 @ 9:31am

      Re: only $62,000 ?

      As was noted in the Ars Technica article, Missouri House Representative Lyndall Fraker received $3,450 from AT&T in his time as a lawmaker since 2011. He has also received $2,300 from CenturyLink and $1,500 from Comcast.

      For ATT, that's the equivalent of bribing some yabbo with a Happy Meal. What a rube.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 5 May 2016 @ 9:26am

    This? This is why people don't like or trust politicians

    If you can't get the bill you want passed openly, simply hide it in an unrelated bill and hope it flies under the radar until it's too late, or stick it in a 'must pass' bill and get it passed into law that way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2016 @ 9:37am

    not only should AT&T be held accountable for this behavior, any and all politicians not just involved but doing the sort of 'bad for the public' acts like Lyndall Fraker is committing should be removed from office! he isn't doing this for any other reason than assist AT&T and in return is being well rewarded with campaign contributions.

    ok, i appreciate this thing isn't isolated but isn't it about time that 'the peoples representatives' were made to do just that and not be concerned with nothing other than themselves and how big a fortune they can amass while in office, doing the bidding of industries, a fortune that will bode them well should they ever lose their seat or be retired while the public get well and truly screwed?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Whatever (profile), 5 May 2016 @ 10:35am

    "The problem for AT&T is that as Google Fiber and other similar efforts have shown a light on the benefits of public/private partnerships to shore up lagging broadband markets, "

    No, Google Fiber has shown mostly that a company with gobs of free cash and nothing to do with it can spend hundreds of millions a year with absolutely not requirement for a return on investment, just to "disrupt" others.

    Go look at the most recent Google / Alphabet numbers, they lost 500-600 million (if memory serves me correctly) on their various extra projects, with Google Fiber being the majority of that loss. In any other industry, that would be akin to dumping.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 9:53am

      Re:

      Wouldn't it be akin to "exploration" in the oil and gas industry. There's no guarantee there's profit there until they do enough research to know. Isn't that what Google's doing?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2016 @ 10:42am

    AT&T wasn't elected to write *anything*

    Once again, I will suggest that part of any legislative action should be to require author attribution for any text that is to be voted upon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 5 May 2016 @ 11:10am

    But It IS Related To Road Traffic

    But Karl, if you slow down broadband enough, then people will need to drive hard drives around town in order to move content. At this point, using sneakernet, the road traffic is directly related to broadband speed and access.

    This is no mere hypothetical, see
    http://www.fastcompany.com/3048163/in-cuba-an-underground-network-armed-with-usb-drives-does-the- work-of-google-and-youtube

    If we're lucky, Missouri will soon have equal data infrastructure as Cuba...but without the medical coverage.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2016 @ 11:45am

    This is the shit that needs to end

    Businesses should not be writing ANYTHING when it comes to law. Laws should be written by the lawmakers themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 12:48am

    Bills like this should never be able to be attached to other bills that have absolutely nothing to do with it. There's absolutely no reason for them to be together and the ability to attach them to other bills needs to be banned.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Nov 2016 @ 9:06am

      Re:

      This is how they make it look like there is lots of work for them. All the confusion adds to job security. Stupid congress idiots dont even know how to read or write bills.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 4:29pm

    AT&T (and TONS of other companies) needs smacked around again like back in 1982.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Nov 2016 @ 8:59am

    Why wouldnt Missouri House Representative Lyndall Frake be considered a criminal? Oh, its politics...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.