Wednesday, March 09, 2005

HB 789 Revised, Still Ugly


The Texas Legislature could make it illegal for towns to set up broadband networks. Texas House Bill 789 currently is being heard by the House Committee on Regulated Industries. One small provision buried in this 330-page bill outlaws municipal networks.

The big phone companies have been fighting to control who provides broadband. We must let the committee know that the ban on muni networks must be dropped. Broadband is too important to leave in the hands of a few special interests.

For more information on the effort to support municipal broadband, visit

Take action now to support increased choice for broadband. Please send your state representatives the following message:

Remove all restrictions on municipal broadband from HB 789. Texans want more broadband choices, not fewer. Every Texas community deserves the right to decide how best to build its critical infrastructure.

Here is what you can do.

Action in 30 Seconds: Notify your Representatives

Take action now. Consumers Union has provided a one-click web form that will send your message to your state representatives.


The form provides a boilerplate message. You may edit the form and write your own message. Please ask your representative:

Remove all restrictions on municipal broadband from HB 789. Texans want more broadband choices, not fewer. Every Texas community deserves the right to decide how best to build its critical infrastructure.

If you have time for nothing else, send that form.

If you have the time to contact your representative directly, by phone or by fax, that is most effective. You can find the contact information for your representative here:

Contact Regulated Industries Chair and Committee Members

The House Committee on Regulated Industries is preparing a watered-down replacement of the anti-muni language. All indications show that the replacement will still offer the big phone companies a veto over municipal projects. Action is required now to let the committee know it should strike the muni restrictions completely.

If your state representative sits on the committee, please contact them and let them know you are a constituent who opposes limitations on municipal broadband.

Contact committee chair and bill author Rep. Phil King, and let him know that you oppose limitations on municipal broadband.

The representatives on this committee are:

State Representative Phone Fax District Counties Represented
Rep. Phil King (chair) 512-463-0738 512-463-1957 61 Parker, Wise
Rep. Robert "Bob" Hunter (vice chair) 512-463-0718 512-463-6244 71 Nolan, Taylor
Rep. Sylvester Turner 512-463-0554 512-463-8380 139 Harris (central)
Rep. Todd Baxter 512-463-0631 512-236-1065 48 Travis (northwest)
Rep. Robby Cook 512-463-0682 512-463-9955 17 Bastrop, Brazos (part), Burleson, Colorado, Fayette, Lee
Rep. Joe Crabb 512-463-0520 512-463-5896 127 Harris (east)
Rep. Will Hartnett 512-463-0576 512-463-7827 114 Dallas (part)

Let Us Know

If you send a letter or fax to your representatives, please send us a copy of your letter so we can track who has been contacted. You can send copies either by email to or by fax to 815-301-8302. If you receive a response, please let us know.

March 08, 2005

HB 789 Revised, Still Ugly

Yesterday, a revised version of HB 789 was released. The section that outlaws community Internet (72KB PDF) has been changed, largely in response to objections like ours. The changes camouflage around the prohibitions, without addressing the real problem.

One change actually broadens the ban to cover even more services. The original ban primarily protected the large phone companies. The revision extends further protections to the large cable providers.

The bill adds some small exceptions. New provisions will allow free public hotspots under limited circumstances. The change would allow the city to light up a library, but not a downtown block.

Exceptions are added for a number of obvious services, such as permitting e-government services and allowing libraries to charge out-of-area visitors to use their facilities. The presence of these ridiculous exceptions validates our claim that the ban is harmful and overly broad. It also illustrates the folly of this approach. The bill fails to exempt on-line library catalogs, for instance, so presumably the Austin Public Library would need to shut down that service.

The changes open up just one provision for community Internet. Municipalities will be allowed to setup networks to support "economic development activities" providing that specific legislation authorizes the project.

We expect the committee will hold a hearing on this new language in the next few days. It is important that we all contact them before then and let them know we want the community Internet ban removed completely.