AT&T Buries Language In Missouri Traffic Bill To Hinder Broadband Competition
from the the-best-lawmakers-money-can-buy dept
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.