City considers impacts of broadband bill
The City of Sparks is examining
a telecommunications bill introduced by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.)
and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that could limit local governments
ability to regulate the industry.
The "Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act" could reduce
the ability of local governments to control right-of-ways and limit the
placement of infrastructure according to zoning standards.
The bill could also limit the city's ability to impose taxes or fees for
the use of right-of-ways or providing service.
In a statement, Ensign said federal rules should "encourage market
forces to work and that allow consumers to choose the best products and
services at the best prices."
Ensign said the U.S. is falling behind in the global market, and cited
the company Skype out of the Netherlands, which has 40 million customers,
10 million in the U.S. alone.
A new law could bring 212,000 new jobs and millions of dollars in growth,
Ensign said. The bill would allow local governments to collect 5 percent
of revenues from phone video service providers, as they do for cable.
The bill would also allow for a fee on satellite services, which could
provide an added revenue source for the city, said Sparks Assistant City
Manager Steve Driscoll.
"It's believed that there will be a large movement from land-line
type service to wireless type services," he said.
"Because of that, the
city could lose money over time due to technology, not because of the
bill. In the long run, we could potentially see more franchise moneys."
Opponents of the bill worry the legislation prohibits cities from charging
fees for construction permits to install or upgrade a facility.
Reno Mayor Bob Cashell
drafted a letter to Sen. Ensign expressing the City of Reno's concerns
with the bill.
"We are alarmed by industry arguments that they are unfairly burdened
and should be exempt from all state and local taxation," Cashell
said. "Any pre-emption of local taxing authority over telecommunications
providers will simply shift the tax burden to other businesses and property
Cashell said local governments must be able to regulate their right-of-ways.
"Reno taxpayers have made major investments in its streets and roads
and they are one of the community's most valuable assets," he said.
"Collection of fees for their use by private companies protects these
investments and ensures that they are used safely and responsibly."
The National League of Cities is also opposed to the legislation as written.
Driscoll said he had some concerns over how the bill might limit the city's
"We have concerns about the bill," he said. "Anytime something
would limit the ability for a city to maintain its right-of-ways or building
standards, we're concerned."
Ensign's office has assured the city they would still have local control,
"We have been assured we would maintain control of our right of ways,"
Driscoll said. "Nothing in the bill we believe is intended to change
that. We're in good shape."
Driscoll said the city has been working closely with Ensign to protect
"The city is very appreciative of the fact the senator's office is
working so closely with us," he said. "We're working with the
senator's staff to understand how it works and how it might affect the
city. We'll provide information back on aspects negatively affecting the
Driscoll said the legislation is still in the early stages and will probably
go through several changes before its final vote.
"In reality, the bill that gets introduced and the bill that gets
passed . . . a lot of times they look very different," he said.
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