Lawmakers to cities: Don't run telecoms

Wisconsin State Roundup

Published March 1, 2004  | March 2004 issue

Smaller cities around Wisconsin and the nation have been establishing public broadband service, but a bill in the state Senate would make it more difficult for them to do so.

Following the proposed procedures, a city would have to determine that no private provider is willing to offer access. Otherwise, city governments wishing to get into the broadband business would have to conduct a cost-benefit analysis and, if tax funds were involved, hold a public referendum.

The restrictions would also apply to other telecommunications and cable service, in addition to high-speed Internet. Legislators sponsoring the bill say they want to promote competition and deter the unfair advantage towns may have in commanding tax funds.

Currently, over 20 municipalities statewide offer such services. They would not be affected by the bill, which would only apply to new entrants.

Another bill in the works would offer tax breaks to private providers that offer broadband access to areas without it.

Joe Mahon