Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Telcos Whine While Wisconsin Falls Behind

Wisconsin ranks 43rd in the nation for high-speed broadband connectivity.

Power grab: Is UW’s involvement in providing Internet access an invaluable public good? (Capital Times, 7/20/2011)

Excerpt:        Bill Esbeck, the head of the state’s largest association of telecommunications providers, says that while legal action has not formally been pursued, “it’s always an option".  [Well, we now know that Esback was less than candid with the reporter.]

The telco company line.
“The bottom line is the university should stick to the education of students and providing these services is outside of that core mission,” says Esbeck, the executive director of the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association. “We believe very strongly that the UW should not be competing with the private sector.”

Others counter that the public good should outweigh private profits.

More along the lines of the Wisconsin Idea.
“These kinds of proposals certainly aren’t being pushed out of fiscal conservatism, because this is a great way to make these public entities pay a lot more for slower connections,” says Christopher Mitchell, the director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative, which encourages the formation of telecommunications networks that benefit the public. “It’s great for AT&T but terrible for the taxpayers and would make these institutions less efficient.”

Following an outpouring of complaints from all corners of the state trumpeting the importance of WiscNet and the potential of the federal grants, many were pleasantly surprised to see the Legislature soften the Joint Finance provisions. The final budget bill allows UW-Extension and UW-Madison to accept their federal stimulus funds and to move forward with those projects because the contracts have been signed and dollars earmarked, although any add-ons to these endeavors must be OK’d by the JFC.

And, the budget restores Wisc-Net operations, for now, while requiring the Legislative Audit Bureau to conduct a financial and performance analysis of the UW System’s use of broadband and telecommunications services by Jan. 1, 2013. Most notably, this review could help determine whether WiscNet is a shell organization of UW-Madison that has no legal right to sell Internet services or if the university really is just another member of a nonprofit Internet provider.

The veto impact
However, due to a line-item veto by Gov. Scott Walker, (1) the UW must end its relationship with WiscNet by July 1, 2013. Similarly, the final budget also (2) requires UW-Madison to sever ties with regional and national research networks such as Internet2 by the same date. UW-Madison officials say this would be a devastating blow to the university’s lucrative research enterprise, and even the telcos insist they have no interest in ending UW’s involvement in such networks. Together, these issues will force the full Legislature to act on new legislation within the next two years.  [Emphasis added.  In other words, folks, we'll again need to roll up our sleeves and advocate like hell.]

Related WiscNet posts:
Access Wisconsin news release.  (7/19/2011)
LRB clarifies WiscNet veto. (6/30/2011)
WiscNet:  Moving Forward.  (6/30/2011)
Walker's WiscNet veto:  What does it mean?  (6/27/2011)
Rest assured they'll be more fights in this battle.  (6/24/2011)
Wisconsin Senate passes budget.  (6/17/2011)
Amendment update.    (6/16/2011)
Assembly passes budget at 3:05 a.m.  (6/16/2011)
Wispolitics budget blog.  (6/15/2011)
Wisconsin ranks 43rd for broadband Internet coverage.  (6/15/2011)
Ron Kind news release.  (6/15/2011)
Assembly 8.  (6/15/2011)
Highest level alert.  (6/15/2011)
This is what democracy looks like.  (6/15/2011)
WSTA's day of disappointment.  (6/14/2011)
They can hear us now.  (6/14/2011)
Appleton Post-Crescent editorial.  (6/14/2011)
YouTube video.  (6/14/2011)
Hedberg Public Library promotes WiscNet.  (6/14/2011)
League of Wisconsin Municipalities press release.  (6/14/2011)
UW General Counsel opinion.  (6/13/2011)
Ars Technica WiscNet coverage.  (6/13/2011)
Wausau Daily Herald editorial.  (6/13/2011)
If your representative is Robin Vos...   (9/13/2011)
Baraboo School Board unhappy with JFC WiscNet action.  (6/13/2011)
WiscNet debate from the NE WI prospective.  (6/12/2011)
David Weinhold letter to editor.  (6122010
Rep. Moelpske's statement. (6/11/2011)
COLAND letter to Sen. Fitzgerald.  (6/10/2011)
Rhonda Puntney's op-ed piece.  (6/10/2011)
Nass letter to Fitzgerald and Vos.  (6/9/2011)
CINC response.  (6/9/2011)
UW response.  (6/9/2011)
Manna from heaven.  (6/8/2011)

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