SB 304 - Taking Kansas in the Wrong Direction

On January 27, 2014 the Kansas Senate introduced legislation that will drastically limit Kansan’s future options for broadband Internet access.

Not only does SB 304 make it illegal for municipalities to build publicly owned Internet utilities, the bill makes it impossible for municipalities to lease existing assets to broadband providers. This includes not only fiber-optic cable, but even water tower sites where cellular providers often attach antennas.

In essence the legislation prohibits cities and counties from working to bring broadband to their communities in almost every way. Under this legislation cities and counties cannot purchase, lease, construct, maintain or operate any facility for the purpose of enabling broadband service. They cannot install their own infrastructure and they cannot work to have infrastructure installed through a joint partnership.

Even joint partnerships like the one between Google and Kansas City would be illegal under this bill. You might recall that to draw Google to Kansas City, “Google received stunning regulatory concessions and incentives from local governments, including free access to virtually everything the city owns or controls: rights of way, central office space, power, interconnections with anchor institutions, marketing and direct mail, and office space for Google employees. City officials also expedited the permitting process and assigned staff specifically to help Google. One county even offered to allow Google to hang its wires on parts of utility poles—for free—that are usually off-limits to communications companies.” Fred Campbell – Competitive Enterprise Institute

Let me repeat that: This legislation makes innovative projects like Google Fiber illegal. It makes Wicked Broadband’s fiber project in Lawrence illegal. It takes home rule authority away from municipal governments and cedes it to the states.

The legislation does purportedly have an exception for un-served areas, but since it defines satellite Internet as broadband, all of Kansas is assumed to be served. Satellite Internet is not broadband. Latencies of 2,000 ms make it impossible to use these links for video conferencing, voice over IP, or a swath of other services that require speedy connections. If you’ve ever heard stories from families that use satellite as their primary Internet service, you’d know that this technology is incapable of providing true high-speed Internet.

This is quite possibly the most restrictive legislation on this issue ever proposed nationally. National groups like Community Broadband Networks have condemned the bill as “the most draconian limits on building network we have seen in any state”

Internet infrastructure is to the 21st century what roads were in the 20th and rail lines were in the 19th. They are our link to the global economy, to our nation and to our local community. The Kansas legislature is working to limit local investment in this essential infrastructure.

Kansans who want access to high-speed Internet services at competitive rates need to sit up and take notice. If this bill passes it will make Kansas the most restrictive state in the nation when it comes to building local broadband infrastructure. It will guarantee that Kansas becomes an Internet backwater where citizens have no choices other than the local cable or telephone providers.

How to Help

Letter to the Editor

We are coordinating a campaign to send letters to editors of newspapers across the state.

Please take a moment to write a quick letter that we can use to fight this legislation.