Esme Vos of MuniWireless.com has perspective on the Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act of 2005, essentially a rewrite of the current law, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, introduced on July 27 by Sen. John Ensigh (R-Nevada). The bill directly deals with local governments' ability to deploy municipal wireless. Here is Esme's rundown:
- The bill would allow municipalities to deploy wired and wireless broadband networks, but they have to go through an open RFP process conducted by a neutral third party.
- The bill also says that the neutral third party shall give non-governmental entities preference in the bidding process. Esme notes: "Another restriction that in some cases makes no sense at all especially in a region where there are no decent private alternatives (see the Lafayette fiber project, where voters decided that they prefer the local government to deploy the network, rather than hand it over to the telco and cable companies). And how neutral can the third party be when the bill requires it to choose the private party over the governmental entity?"
- The bill contains a grandfather clause for local governments that are already delivering communications services as of the date of the enactment of the bill, unless the local government decides to enter into a new line of business (not defined) or expands its service area after the bill’s enactment.
- If the state or local government wins the bid, a private entity has the “ability” to place the same facilities in the same conduit or trenches as the local/state government. Esme: "Note it did not say “right” but you can see how this can lead to lawsuits from private companies demanding that they be given the “ability” to place their pipes in the ground. That would delay the government’s project and make it more expensive. Why have double or triple pipes in the first place? Why not just have the government put in the fiber infrastructure and open it up to all service providers as they do in Europe?"