February 28, 2005

What Makes A Utility “Public?” [9:15 am]

Big Telcos Fighting Public-Sector Competition [pdf]

Cities and towns from San Francisco to Philadelphia, viewing access to advanced telecommunications as pivotal to prosperity, are aggressively seeking ways to provide high-speed Internet connections, wired or wireless, for citizens and local businesses.

But telephone and cable TV companies have responded by flexing political and financial muscle at the state level, arguing that government has no business getting into their business.

So far, about a dozen states have passed measures either restricting or banning public sector efforts to deliver telecom services, while similar legislation has been introduced in about a half dozen other states.

And in related battles, Bellsouth Corp. is suing a North Carolina town that is leasing space on its fiber-optic network, while SBC Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. mailed fliers and ran newspaper ads in Illinois last year to help defeat a three-town referendum on building a fiber network.

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