Do-it-yourself anti-municipal broadband kit

To make it easier for state legislatures to pass anti-municipal broadband laws, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has a piece of anti-municipal broadband model legislation entitled the “Municipal Telecommunications Private Industry Safeguards Act”. You can view the document here (Word format).To make it easier for state legislatures to pass anti-municipal broadband laws, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has a piece of anti-municipal broadband model legislation entitled the “Municipal Telecommunications Private Industry Safeguards Act”. You can view the document here (Word format).

This ridiculous piece of nonsense, masquerading as “model legislation” like the Uniform Commercial Code, is making the rounds of US state legislatures and if the original drafters of the document were really ambitious, they would translate it into 50 languages and send it to other countries’ parliaments.

All you have to do, as a legislator who is friendly to incumbent operators, is to insert the name of your state, introduce it as a bill and voila! You will ensure that your state will forever lag behind every other state (and country) in broadband deployment. You will, however, guarantee an endless supply of money from incumbent operators for your next political campaign.

The first page of the “model legislation” contains a summary which is a wonderful piece of political doublespeak (comments in italics are mine):

The Legislature recognizes the importance of the widespread provision of telecommunications (but not as important as getting money for our next political campaign) and advanced services and cable television services (we are very grateful for 256 Kbps and Big Brother/Who wants to marry a millionaire). For the vast majority of citizens these services are provided by private entities (to which we owe our allegiance).

In certain instances municipalities or their agents have sought to provide such services in competition with private providers (those darned munis are trying to bring cheap broadband to the masses, how un-American). This act limits the authority of municipalities to own and operate telecommunications and advanced service and cable television facilities and to provide public and advanced telecommunication and cable television services to a municipality’s inhabitants (we want to make sure once and for all that the incumbents face no competition – after all who is going to fund out next political campaign).

When municipalities do provide such services this act provides safeguards to ensure that private providers with whom the municipality competes are not disadvantaged by the municipality in the exercise of its bonding and taxing authority, management of rights of way, assessment of fees or taxes, or in any other way (we want the ensure that our benefactors, the incumbent providers, continue to rip people off and get subsidies for it because that’s what democracy is all about).

Don’t you love stuff like this? Even the name of the model legislation – Private Industry Safeguards Act – sounds like “People’s Republic of such-and-such” (always a brutal dictatorship that is anything but a government run for and by the people) or the “German Democratic Republic” (which was anything but democratic).

Here’s a tip. If your state legislator has proposed an anti-municipal broadband bill, compare it with the language in this model legislation and see whether the bill tracks this document word for word. If it does, you need to tell your legislator to stop opening spam messages and stop believing junk faxes such as this one.


Who is ALEC? Who’s funding them? Matt Stone sent me a list of people who are on the Private Enterprise Board of ALEC. BellSouth and Verizon are well-represented.
*Kurt L. Malmgren, PhRMA
*Jerry Watson, American Bail Coalition
First Vice Chairman
*Scott Fisher, Altria Corporate Services, Inc.
Second Vice Chairman
*Pete Poynter, BellSouth Corporation
*Michael K. Morgan, Koch Industries
Immediate Past Chairman
*Allan E. Auger, Coors Brewing Company
Chairman Emeritus
*Ronald F. Scheberle, Verizon Communications, Inc.
Chairman Emeritus

The People for the American Way publishes a Right Wing Watch online and has this to say about ALEC:

* ALEC is a right wing public policy organization with strong ties to major corporations, trade associations and right wing politicians.
* ALEC’s agenda includes rolling back civil rights, challenging government restrictions on corporate pollution, and limiting government regulations of commerce, privatizing public services, and representing the interests of the corporations that make up its supporters.
* ALEC’s mission: “To promote the principles of federalism by developing and promoting policies‚Äö?Ѭ?To enlist state legislators from all parties and members of the private sector who share ALEC’s mission‚Äö?Ѭ?To conduct a policy making program that unites members of the public and private sector in a dynamic partnership to support research, policy development, and dissemination activities.‚Äö?Ñ?
* ALEC claims that it is “the nation’s largest bipartisan, individual membership association of state legislators.‚Äö?Ñ? All of ALEC’s officers who are state legislator members are Republican.
* ALEC is supported by many right-wing foundations and organizations, including but not limited to: National Rifle Association, Family Research Council, Heritage Foundation, Sarah Scaife Foundation, Milliken Foundation, DeVos Foundation, Bradley Foundation, and the Olin Foundation.
* ALEC has over three hundred corporate sponsors. Some corporations and trade groups that have strong ties to ALEC include: Enron, American Nuclear Energy Council, American Petroleum Institute, Amoco, Chevron, Coors Brewing Company, Shell, Texaco, Union Pacific Railroad, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, Phillip Morris, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, others.

Read more about ALEC on

Sascha Meinrath posted a list of members of the boards of directors of two other “astroturf organizations”, groups that claim to be looking out for the best interests of the average consumer — but a quick look at their boards of directors tells you everything you need to know about them:

Progress & Freedom Foundation

*George A. (Jay) Keyworth II — Hewlett Packard Company and General Atomics
* Raymond L. Gifford — President PFF
* Jeffrey Eisenach — PFF and CapAnalysis
* Mark Grady — George Mason Law School
* Larry Harlow — Timmons & Company, Inc.
* Peter Harter — ZG VEntures LLC

Heartland Institute — refuses to disclose its funding sources and doesn’t list affiliations of Board of Directors on their website.
*Joseph Bast — President & CEO, Heartland Institute
* Herbert Walberg — chairman of the Board of Directors of The Heartland Institute
* Walter F. Buchholtz — ExxonMobil Corporation
* Robert Buford — Planned Realty Group
* Paul E. Fisher — McGuireWoods
* James G. Fitzgerald — BankNote Capital Corp.
* Daniel Hales — Peterson & Ross law group.
* William Higginson — Chicago Equity Fund Inc., Illinois Equity Fund Inc., and Investment Management Corp., IMC Property Management LLC.
* James Johnston — retired from Amoco Corporation
* Roy Marden — Philip Morris Companies Inc.
* David Padden — Padden & Company Inc.
* Frank Resnik — retired from Medline Industries, Inc.
* Leslie Rose — Fidelity Bank
* Lee Tooman — Golden Rule Insurance Company
* Lee Walker — The New Coalition for Economic & Social Change
* Thomas Walton — General Motors Corporation

I wrote about the Heartland Institute’s report entitled Municipally Owned Broadband Networks: A Critical Evaluation in which it concluded that municipal broadband networks were a bad idea. This “critical evaluation” says that virtually anyone in the US who wants cable or DSL service can get it and that there is no connection between broadband and economic development.

The ALEC “model legislation” can be downloaded from:


  1. Model Anti-Municipal Broadband Bill

    Esme Vos has uncovered (and has available for download) the model bill for state legislatures to ban municipal broadband: The inestimable Vos has emerged as a firebrand for fighting back the rhetoric of incumbent teleopolies that have put out the meme…

  2. Outing Astroturf Telecom Organizations (a.k.a. Simulacrums of the Public Interest)

    As Esme Vos recently reported on — a new template for anti-competition, anti-municipal broadband legislation has been put out in coordination with three gro

  3. a nasty trend

    On the last Hello World we talked about the recent bill Pennsylvania enacted that will severely limit community wireless projects, and because of some vague wording make it difficult for entrepreneurs to compete against the likes of Verizon – as if it …

  4. Madison WiFi: Anti Municipal Broadband Kit!

    Esme Vos:To make it easier for state legislatures to pass anti-municipal broadband laws, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has a piece of anti-municipal broadband model legislation entitled the “Municipal Telecommunications Private Indus…

  5. Municipal Broadband Access in the US

    I’ve previously discussed, with Mark for example, that internet connectivity is so important that it should be treated as a public utility, rather than just a matter for private interests. Apparently, the businesses disagree with me. (Why am I not surp…

  6. The Heartland Institute report says that there “is no evidence showing municipal investments in broadband lead to faster economic growth or higher personal incomes.” This seems counterintuitive, but if this is true, it would seem that municipalities that are considering community broadband should be sure that they have compelling non-economic reasons. If it is not true, cities should be prepared to deflect this type of claim with facts. Do you know of any rigorous economic analyses that demonstrate a positive economic effect from broadband availability?

  7. suziheavens says

    This is an important story that I wish more people would read. When Americans wake up and realize we no longer have a media or government of, by and for the people, that corporations are writing the rules for their own benefit not ours. And then ‚Äúputting them over, on us,” they are going to be righteously angry. I hope we get mad soon.