Michigan Lawmaker Flees Twitter After Reports Highlight She Helped AT&T Push Anti-Competition Broadband Law

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

Last week we noted how Freshman Michigan Representative Michele Hoitenga has been pushing a broadband competition-killing bill she clearly neither wrote nor understands. The industry-backed bill, HB 5099 (pdf), would ban Michigan towns and cities from using taxpayer funds to build or operate community broadband networks, and would hamstring these communities' abilities to strike public/private partnerships. The bill is just the latest example of broadband industry protectionist laws ISPs ghost write, then shovel unobstructed through the corrupt state legislative process.

ISPs want to have their cake and to eat it too; they don't want to upgrade or deploy broadband into rural or lower income areas, but they don't want others to either. Why? Because these communities might highlight how there's creative, collaborative alternatives to the duopoly status quo we all despise. And they certainly don't want added outside pressure disrupting the good thing (read: duopoly regulatory capture resulting in no competition and higher rates) they've enjoyed for the better part of a generation.

While companies like AT&T could deter towns and cities from looking for creative alternatives by offering better, cheaper service, it's much less expensive to throw money at lawmakers who, with the help of groups like ALEC, craft and pass laws protecting their regional mono/duopolies. All while pretending that their only real motivation is to protect the taxpayer, of course.

And while this process has played out in dozens of states repeatedly over the last fifteen years (more than twenty states have let ISPs write similar state laws), Hoitenga's lack of experience provided a closer look at the often-grotesque process. As we noted last week, Hoitenga doesn't appear to even remotely understand how the broadband industry works, from her belief that Michigan residents had 37 different ISPs to choose from, to her argument that letting giant ISPs dictate what locals can do in their own communities somehow...helps the little guy.

As the press began to politely highlight how Hoitenga should probably actually understand the industry she's legislating and the bill she's supporting, the lawmaker refused to comment -- and instead chose to flee Twitter:

For added protection, she blocked my account specifically from following her whatsoever:

That should certainly fix the problem, right? While it's unclear which giant ISP wrote the bill Hoitenga couldn't bother to understand, AT&T has been particularly active on this front over the last decade and is the most likely culprit. And based on a quick look at campaign financing and lobbying disclosures, Hoitenga's fealty to the status quo appears to have come relatively cheap for the multi-billion dollar media, television and telecom conglomerate:

Campaign finance records reviewed by IBT show that two of her largest campaign contributors are AT&T Michigan and the Telecommunications Association of Michigan (TAM): AT&T gave her campaign $1,500 while TAM provided her with $3,500 — large amounts for a first term state representative. The Michigan Cable Telecommunications Association — a separate entity from TAM — gave Hoitenga’s campaign $1,000.

According to state lobbying records reviewed by IBT, Hoitenga met and dined with TAM lobbyists during the first half of the year. Michigan’s lobbying disclosures are filed every six months, so it is currently unknown if TAM lobbyists has met with Hoitenga since June. The $142.82 spent to take Hoitenga out for a meal appears to be the only food and beverage expense TAM has disclosed in conjunction with its lobbying since 2001 , as far back as online lobbying records go.

Again, why bother to offer better and cheaper broadband service when you can quite literally buy protectionist state law for a few thousand dollars and some duck a l'orange?

Update: While Hoitenga has since restored public access to her Twitter account, I remain blocked. She has subsequently tried to claim on Facebook that the accounts she blocked were issuing threats against her and her family. For the record I asked Hoitenga one, entirely civil question.

Filed Under: competition, michele hoitenga, michigan, muni broadband, press
Companies: twitter

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  1. icon
    William Braunfeld (profile), 24 Oct 2017 @ 10:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I agree with most of this post, but I do firmly believe that the first-past-the-post system contributes heavily to the two party problem; strategic voting, much as I hate it, is the result of the winner-take-all approach.
    You are right, though, that the president doesn't matter nearly as much as our country seems to think he does. If you ask me, the biggest issue in our political system is gerrymandering; you can't forget that it's not 100% our fault when the system is -actively rigged- to create no-competition districts for certain politicians.

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