Annapolis, MD – Two committees in the Maryland legislature today held hearings on bills that would point the high-tech future of the state in opposite directions. Public Knowledge, the Washington, D.C.-based public interest group, testified in favor of one, and against another.
The Senate Finance Committee held its hearing on SB 515 (http://mlis.state.md.us/2008rs/bills/sb/sb0515f.pdf), a bill sponsored by Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Dist. 20) to require providers of high-speed Internet service to report where their services are deployed. The bill is the Senate version of legislation introduced in the House (HB 987) by Del. Herman L. Taylor, Jr. (D-Dist. 14).
Art Brodsky, Public Knowledge's communications director, said that Senate bill “is a very simple and direct bill that would answer the question: Which places in Maryland have access to the best in high-speed Internet services (broadband) and which don't?” Brodsky said the legislation is simply a reporting requirement, much as companies have now, and does not constitute regulation.
The bill, Brodsky said, “It will help competition, will spur innovation and will help to lead to improvements in all parts of Maryland.” Brodsky's full written statement is at: http://www.publicknowledge.org/pdf/abrodsky-sb515-testimony-20080304.pdf.
On the other hand, legislation being heard in the House Economic Matters Committee is “the wrong way” for Maryland to collect information on high-speed Internet deployment. The bill, HR 1144 (http://mlis.state.md.us/2008rs/bills/hb/hb1144f.pdf), by Del. Tom Hucker (D-Dist. 20). The bill would set up unaccountable outside agencies as the collectors and censors of broadband deployment information.
Brodsky said: “It is an application for a franchise, much as if you were applying to open a local outlet for McDonald's or Kentucky Fried Chicken. The state is being asked to put up millions of dollars for the privilege of membership in a would-be empire now called Connected Nation that started life as Connect Kentucky.” The legislature “should decline the offer,” Brodsky said. His written testimony is here: http://www.publicknowledge.org/pdf/abrodsky-hb1144-testimony-20080304.pdf.
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.