Effect of Pennsylvania law on municipal broadband

I came across an article by Carol Ellison of Eweek in which she states:I came across an article by Carol Ellison of Eweek in which she states:

Kutztown, Pa., thought it was helping private companies set up broadband and wireless services in its market. But a new law could place its future in the hands of providers that previously were not eager to serve it.

Carol had written a column on December 28, 2004 entitled Cities Should Control Their Wi-Fi Fates in which she argued that Pennsylvania has given Big Broadband too much control over municipal wireless installations. Among the many responses to that column was a letter from Frank Caruso, director of information for Kutztown, PA. Caruso relates how the town decided it had to build its own fiber network because none of the broadband providers was interested in Kutztown. The municipality’s model was to build a network and lease it out to private companies, as many as they could find. The big providers such as Verizon ignored Kutztown. The only parties they attracted were a cable company and a regional ISP. When residents complained that cable fees were too high, the municipality launched its own cable service, thereby forcing the cable company’s rates down by 40 percent. Recently Kutztown has been working on a wireless broadband offering with a local integrator.

Carol is concerned that House Bill 30 has “effectively given veto power on municipal efforts to the very carriers that neglected Kutztown all along.” She points out that while Verizon is pursuing an aggressive build-out of broadband, it’s only one carrier and there’s only so much it can do.

Dianah Neff of Philadelphia has told me that it is the smaller communities in Pennsylvania who stand to suffer the most from House Bill 30. The grandfather clause (municipalities with networks up and running before 1 January 2006 are exempt) gives these small communities very little time to get up and running before that date. Yet it is precisely those communities that suffer from a lack of broadband.


Weighing in on municipal wireless by Carol Ellison (Eweek)