A spate of destructive broadband bills has been sweeping across the country, spurred on by the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Unbelievably, just as broadband Internet becomes an essential tool for millions of Americans, these states, following the pattern of the model ALEC bill, are making moves toward depriving states of any power to ensure reliable, competitive, and affordable service that serves all state residents — from small businesses to those on the other side of the digital divide. The companies behind these bills want the ability to choose to serve only the locations and the individuals that yield the greatest profits. It is simply not smart governance to leave state authorities without the power to ensure everyone can use such a critical asset.
Sometimes states operate against stereotype, and this legislative session is no exception. In contrast to a forward-thinking bill put forward in West Virginia earlier this year, which would have explicitly granted authority over high speed broadband Internet services, it seems the typically consumer-friendly and technologically savvy California legislature is considering moving in the opposite direction, taking up a policy that was endorsed by the ultra-right wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) when it was under consideration in New York State.
Facing another round of deep cuts to health care and education as a result of ongoing revenue shortages caused by the slow economic recovery, and on the heels of a new national survey reporting that most state budgets have now seen spending fall below pre-recession levels, some states are signaling that they will be pursuing more balanced approaches to their budget troubles in 2012 than they have in previous years.
States looking to avoid making devastating budget cuts following the Great Recession have turned in recent years to closing tax loopholes, including requiring online retailers with a physical presence in-state to collect state sales taxes. Unsurprisingly, states who have pursued this approach have been fought every step of the way by huge corporations, specifically the online retail giant Amazon. This week, the battle came to a head in California, where lawmakers — who had earlier this year passed a measure requiring large online retailers to collect sales taxes — compromised in the face of a multimillion dollar effort by Amazon to take the issue to the voters in a ballot referendum by agreeing to delay the implementation of the law by one year.