Wednesday, November 29, 2006

HB 6456

In Michigan right now there is HB 6456 that is being talked about. This bill didn't get much attention until Google called for net neutrality to be added to the bill.

I have to say Michigan badly need more competition in terrestrial video services. Right now Comcast has franchising rights to most of Michigan, meaning most of the places you go in Michigan they will have Comcast cable. As things stand right now only one cable operator is allowed to operate in a given town. The reason behind this is that more than one cable company operating in the same area meant that each company would need to run their own cable on the poles. Things are changing. There is now IPTV which more or less sends TV over the Internet. People are used to choices, you can even choose your phone company now, and people want a choice in who they get their terrestrial video services from. Cable companies right now are able to operate as legal monopolies and they want to keep it that way.

There was a bill offered up in the Michigan House to allow multiple video services in the state, however Comcast fought it tooth and nail and it didn't make it very far. HB 6456 was later offered as a compromise. The bill, which made it through the House, gave the power to the state, rather than local communities, the power to grant franchising rights. The underlying goal of the bill was to lay the ground work for multiple terrestrial video companies to compete.

Google saw this as an opportunity to work in something very near and dear to its heart, net neutrality. They warned that if net neutrality was not added to the bill, when the cable operators decided to move to a two tiered internet they would be able to affect the entire state, including Google's new offices in Ann Arbor.

We need net neutrality, but we also need competition in terrestrial video services. That being said, I'm not sure if net neutrality needs to be addressed in this bill, it could be addressed in it's own bill and still have the same affect.

Michigan is not the first state to take on this problem. Eight other states have enacted a bill allowing multiple video services to compete for customers. I haven't found any hard information on this (basicly because I get tired if sorting through Google results) but is looks like the other states that have passed a bill like this have not included net neutrality in them, but rather have introduced other bills to cover that issue. The way I look at it is that I would love to see net neutrality added to this bill, however I will take the victory of having multiple competing services over nothing. As I said I see net neutrality as a very important issue, but not necessarily one that has to be addressed in this bill.

I'm not saying that this bill is perfect, or even that it needs to be passed, but we do need competition in terrestrial video services in Michigan. Please don't get me wrong, I am all for net neutrality, I have even writen a letter to Senator Levin about the issue, but let's not try to make this bill into something that it is not. If passed this bill will not kill a neutral internet in Michigan. It only creates the potential of network abuse statewide if the Telecos decided to take up war against the consumers.


Nirmal said...

Thanks for the clarification. This is an area that I am interested in, but have little expertise with.

Nirmal said...

oh, also, do you have contact information? my e-mail address is

Anonymous said...

There is absolutely no reason to have net neutrality language in this bill. You can't control something like that at a state level. It needs to be controlled at a federal level.

That said, I can still understand the other side of the Net Neutrality issue. From AT&T CEO...

How do you think they're (Google, MSN, Vonage, and others) going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain't going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there's going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they're using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?

The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo! or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!