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Maryland, My Maryland — a new broadband approach

February 15, 2007 ,

The Federal government has taken away the responsibilities of the states for broadband Internet service. Heck, the Federal government has taken itself out of most responsibilities for broadband service.

That's why a bill in the Maryland legislature is refreshing — because it shows there is still a state role to play. The bill, HB 1069, by Del. Herman Taylor (D-Montgomery County), concentrates on what the Feds have left behind — the collection of accurate statistics on broadband deployment.

Taylor's bill requires any company offering high-speed broadband, defined as 768 kbps or higher, to report to the Public Service Commission on a ZIP code-plus 4 basis, about where service is being deployed, the take rate, and other information. It's technologically neutral, applying to telephone companies, cable companies, utilities, whoever.

That way, policymakers can see whether parts of the state, whether the rural Eastern Shore or western mountains, or rural parts of Baltimore or other cities, are being put at a competitive disadvantage while the affluent suburbs are being served.

It also adopts as “findings” the Net Neutrality language from the AT&T-BellSouth merger agreement. After all, what's good for the newer/bigger AT&T should be good for Verizon, Comcast and everyone else.

The House of Delegates' Economic Matters Committee has scheduled a hearing on the bill for Feb. 27. Verizon and Comcast have already started lobbying against it, and they have as much influence in Annapolis as they do in Washington.

PK is proud to work with Taylor and his staff on this legislation. We hope it succeeds not only in Maryland, but that the idea could be picked up around the country as well. A realistic view of the broadband market is something that has been sorely missed, and this bill, and ones like it, could go a long way to making a substantive improvement to broadband policy.