Media News Headlines from the 2-18-05 Edition of the Radioshow

A week and a half old, but still quite relevant, these are the news headlines as read on the Feb. 18 edition of the mediageek radioshow: Indy Kills the Community Network Eating Snake; Anti-Community Network Bill Introduced in Illinois; Sinclair Striking Distro Deal with Comcast.

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Indy Kills the Community Network Eating Snake
The Indiana State legislature has effectively killed a bill weÂ’ve mentioned on previous editions of mediageek that would have made it more difficult for municipalities to offer public internet services. Indiana house bill1148 stated that any political subdivision interested in offering telecommunications services to a community would have been forced to conduct market research about its community to find out if private enterprise could provide the same services. The municipality would then have had to hold a public hearing; and finally determine the costs and benefits of the project. In addition the bill would have required municipal services to abide by all existing anti-trust laws.

This bill, which has strikingly similar cousins that have appeared in state legislatures in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and now Illinois, has been hailed by critics as an effort on the part of the telecom lobbyists to place expensive roadblocks in the path of municipal internet service. Sascha Meinrath, project coordinator of the Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network has stated this on his blog concerning the Ohio legislation passed in December:

“The Ohio law goes far beyond what Pennsylvania passedÂ…. It’s far harsher, enforces non-local control over local broadband service provision, eliminates the most cost-effective choices for consumers, and requires municipalities to provide an inordinate amount of information not required by private interests — information so unweildy that it makes public provision of services near-on impossible. Finally, this law allows anyone to sue municipalities if they feel that public provision would adversely affect their business model — note, this doesn’t mean their services have to be cheaper, just that it would be adversely affected, thus, an expensive service provider who is overcharging residents could sue to stop municipal provision since they would be “likely to be adversely affected” [Sec. 1332.09(B)].”

Anti-Community Network Bill Introduced in Illinois
Senator Steven J. Rauschenberger, a Republican from a suburb of Chicago has introduced a clause with similar language to IL senate bill 0499 reading:

“No political subdivision of this State shall provide or offer for sale, either to the public or to a telecommunications provider, a telecommunications service or telecommunications facility used to provide a telecommunications service for which a Certificate of Service Authority is required pursuant to this Section.”

According to a Northwest suburb paper, The Daily Herald, “If successful, such a change could have tremendous local impact.

  • It would stifle potential plans to bring businesses into a 175-mile fiber-optic loop known as the Northern Illinois Technology Triangle, which will run along I-88, I-90 and I-39.

  • It would head off efforts similar to those in the Tri-Cities last year for city-owned and operated Internet, cable TV and phone systems. Voters defeated the idea by a two-thirds margin.
  • Twelve towns with state permission to offer a wide range of telecommunications services would no longer have the ability to do so.”

So, Illinois could be in store for a fate similar to Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Sinclair Striking Distro Deal with Comcast
In corporate collusion news:
Sinclair Broadcast group is working on a deal with AmericaÂ’s largest cable provider, Comcast, to put its digital content on all of the cable networkÂ’s local channels, increasing its number of stations by over 500%.

Last week, Sinclair President and CEO David Smith outlined the company’s plans to open the cable pipeline to as many as five additional Sinclair channels for each of the 62 stations currently under the broadcaster’s control. The move – as TV broadcasting continues its transition to a digital format – has the potential to grow Sinclair’s considerable holdings to 372 stations.

Having thus far failed to do so via official channels at the FCC and in Congress, Sinclair is taking a new tack – striking deals directly with the cable carriers. And the Sinclair-Comcast deal is just the tip of the iceberg. Smith told his investors that “In the event that we do get a deal done with Comcast, my sense is that it will kind of lay the groundwork for every other cable company within our industry where we broadcast.”