An opinion from the Maryland Attorney General provides more evidence that the House of Delegates should enact legislation (HB 1069) to enact a progressive broadband policy, according to the consumer-advocacy group Public Knowledge. Communications Director Art Brodsky, a resident of Olney, MD, testified in favor of the bill, sponsored by Del. Herman Taylor (D-Montgomery) at a hearing of the House Economic Matters Committee on Feb. 27.
Brodsky said the Attorney General's letter endorsed the substantive portion of the legislation which would require companies that offer high-speed Internet service to the public to report to the Public Service Commission (PSC) where that service is being offered.
According to the letter, there are no regulatory or legal barriers to collecting the data. The letter added: “Such a requirement would place no restrictions on the functioning of broadband Internet services in the market, but would simply require that they make certain information available to the PSC on a quarterly basis. No provision of federal law or FCC regulation either specifically bars such a requirement or sets out any requirement or policy that information collection would necessarily impede. Moreover, the public availability of such information could arguably advance competition.” Brodsky said: “We agree with the Attorney General completely.”
In addition, the letter said the way is clear legally for the legislation to enact a policy recommendation that companies offering high-speed Internet service do so without discriminating among different service providers. The policy recommendation is contained in a “finding” in the bill. The Attorney General's letter said that “a 'finding' of the General Assembly would impose no substantive requirement.” The letter was sent in reply to an inquiry from Del. Mary Ann Love (D-Anne Arundel), who asked about the legal status if the finding had “substantive effect.” The letter is available here:
“Because Delegate Taylor's legislation is only a recommendation, it's clear there are no legal barriers to enactment,” Brodsky said. “The only barrier is the opposition from large companies and their cohorts which don't want the public to know which neighborhoods will have the benefit of high-speed services and which want to pick winners and losers on the Internet.”
Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at firstname.lastname@example.org or 405-249-9435.