Minor Thoughts from me to you

Rural broadband bills would streamline local approvals →

The Wisconsin Assembly is considering some changes to how broadband providers apply to provide service.

AB 820, creates a “Broadband Forward” certification for municipalities that is intended to limit fees and streamline the application process for service providers. To be eligible, municipalities must enact an ordinance that designates a single contact for applicants to work with and provide a timeline for consideration of applications, specific criteria for approval or denial of applications, and enables electronic filing.

It would also prohibit application fees exceeding $100 and bar municipalities from discriminating against providers seeking access to public right-of-ways.

That all sounds good to me.

[Rep. Dave Considine, D-Baraboo] said he’s largely concerned that the bill would place too many restrictions on local governments.

“I’m scared that we’re dictating a whole lot as a state to local municipalities,” he said. “While I support rural broadband like crazy and wanted to sign on just based on the title, I think there’s enough restrictions in there that make me hesitate.”

Oh? How are these restrictions a bad thing? The provisions about providing a single point of contact, hard timelines, and specific criteria all sound like very good things to me. Let the companies know who they're dealing with, how long the process will take, and exactly what they have to do. Get rid of the risk of long delays and capricious criteria.

Bill Esbeck, executive director of the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association, lauded the bill for prohibiting “unreasonable” fees on service providers. Some of the Telecommunications Association’s member companies have seen right-of-way access fees as high as $5 per foot, making already expensive projects less feasible, he said.

“When you have a project that is looking to invest in a fiber route that’s 10,000 feet long, a $50,000 invoice from a local government seems to cross the line between reasonable and unreasonable. … This will absolutely improve the efficiency of those investments,” Esbeck said.

Given the deplorable lack of rural broadband in America, to say nothing of actual competition, I think the State should approve anything and everything that can speed up the approval and permitting process. The faster and cheaper it is to submit an application for providing broadband service, the more broadband you're likely to get.