Friday, April 03, 2009


Communications “czar” bill to be heard today at 4:30 by House Finance Committee

by Larry Geller

SB1680 is scheduled to be heard by the House Finance Committee today, Friday, April 3, 2009 at 4:30 p.m. in room 308. Testimony can still be submitted from the Capitol web page at . The hearing notice is here.

This bill dismantles the current regulatory framework for cable, phone, public access television, and more, and puts it under a single commissioner appointed by the governor. For all that disruption, it is unlikely to achieve its goal, one of those “Hawaii a world leader” objectives we hear so often:

     (1)  Access to broadband communications to all households, businesses, and organizations throughout the State by 2012 at speeds and prices comparable to the average speeds and prices available in the top three performing countries in the world;

It’s not clear from my reading of the very complicated bill that it can lower prices, in fact, it would be a deregulation. It is also a power grab for a single person to be appointed by the governor.

Worse, the commissioner, with powers of a “czar,” could fine our public access providers up to $25,000 a day, a power that could be used to suppress programming that the czar doesn’t like, or to control the providers in other ways. In fact, the czar could shut them down. This bill repeals the current protective statute.

And it will go through unless there is enough public opposition.

There are other ways to get better broadband services in Hawaii. I hope readers will weigh in, one way or the other, for today’s hearing. What you pay in the future for TV, Internet and phone services are on the line in this bill.


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