Lawmakers in Richmond are considering an effort to increase transparency of internet providers. As Michael Pope reports, the effort is what’s left of a bill that would have cracked down on the ability of local governments to provide wireless access.
When lawmakers arrived here in Richmond last month, they were considering a bill introduced by Republican Delegate Kathy Byron that would have made it harder for local governments to offer broadband.
But after a lot of push back, that bill has been whittled down.
What’s left simply requires local governments to provide public records on their broadband services, details about how taxpayer money is being spent, says Byron.
“That’s the citizens first defense, being able to actually see the records of how the millions of tax dollars are being spent,” she explains.
The bill still has some opposition. Republican Senator Frank Wagner says he’s going to vote against the measure because the same transparency isn’t required of private internet companies.
“I had the people in my office from the cable company and I said 'You’d open up your documents up to the Freedom of Information Act, right? So the consumer could see that also?' 'Oh no. No we don’t do that.'," Wagner says. "So I’m sitting there saying wait a minute, it’s good for the goose but not for the gander?”
Byron hopes the conversation about what role local governments should play in offering broadband continues, as the Broadband Advisory Council holds a series of public hearings later this year.