Now that the broadband portion of the meeting is over, I've got some overall thoughts on the presenters and some events after the close of the meeting.
- Steven Titch seemed to be woefully unprepared and misinformed when it came time for the question and answer session. Not even having a basic grasp of the funding mechanisms employed by UTOPIA and having to be corrected by members of the committee tells me that he didn't do much research prior to his arrival. This doesn't speak well of his opinions and hints that they aren't based on the full picture at all.
- Contrasting the tone between the reps from Comcast and Qwest was something else. Comcast was calm and measured whereas the rep from Qwest was on the verge of shouting because he was getting so worked up. That attitude was reflected in their comments. Comcast seems to take the approach that UTOPIA isn't necessary but whatever, cities can do what they want. Qwest was there to seek blood and try and kill the project off. I'm glad Comcast is at least comfortable with competing.
- Based on the questions asked, I'm giving Sen. Goodfellow a thumbs up for realizing that we're falling behind in broadband policy and that Qwest and Comcast aren't doing a good job of fulfilling that need. I give Sen. Niederhauser a mixed reaction; as an accountant, he was vigorous with the financial questions but I don't think he sees the bigger picture. Rep. Frank spent a lot of time looking out for the interests of the areas he specifically represents, something that all legislators should do. Sen. Stephenson, however, lobbed a ton of softball questions and seems to be bent on further restricting municipal broadband in the state.
- Several officials at the hearing approached me afterwards to ask for some more information about the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 as well as projects in other areas like FIOS and U-Verse. It seems that they're very concerned that constituents are having to pay a second time for a network that should have already been built.
- I found out from an anonymous source that after the council meeting in Vineyard discussing UTOPIA membership, Qwest said that they'd apply for and use an RUS grant to cover half of the costs to build DSL into the area. Uh… Qwest? Isn't that one of those subsidies you just railed against?
Based on the meeting, it seems like the following legislation may be presented in the 2008 General Session:
- A further moratorium on new membership in UTOPIA. I don't see how extending the moratorium is going to help anything. If anything, it's Qwest trying to buy time to lock more Utahns into inescapable long-term contracts.
- A prohibition on additional pledging funds. It's unclear to me if this is just meant to keep UTOPIA from asking for additional money from cities that have already pledged or to eliminate the pledging status altogether. It'll depend on what legislation comes forth.
What it will take to prevent these outcomes is you. You need to write to the members of the committee and express your opposition to further restrictions on UTOPIA. The members of the committee are as follows:
- Rep. Craig A. Frank, Co Chair
- Sen. Howard A. Stephenson, Co Chair
- Rep. Tim M. Cosgrove
- Rep. Carl W. Duckworth
- Rep. Kevin S. Garn
- Sen. Brent H. Goodfellow
- Rep. Michael T. Morley
- Sen. Wayne L. Niederhauser
- Rep. Mark W. Walker
Make sure they know that residents and businesses want better speeds and better service than what Qwest and Comcast are providing. Make sure they know that passing laws to protect the incumbents is not acceptable. If enough of us voice our opposition to these changes, we can get them sunk before they even leave committee!
UPDATED 09-08-2007 4:15PM: Need an easy way to e-mail the entire committee? Try this link.