Thursday, July 17, 2014

Lobbying continues for change in broadband law

Posted By on Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 3:08 PM

FASTERArkansas, the ad hoc group formed to promote broadband service for public schools, continues its intensive lobbying for a change in state law to allow the state to provide broadband service to schools.

It will assemble school employees and others at the HIllary Clinton Children's Library at 11 a.m. Friday to promote its message that schools need better broadband access this coming school year. (My emphasis.) I've been getting repeat calls at home about this effort, including Friday's meeting.

The intensity of the campaign suggests that the group hasn't given up on getting another special legislative session this year for the purpose of overriding the law that prohibits government agencies from providing broadband and cable TV services. Telecom companies are fighting to preserve the law. As Benji Hardy has written, the existing quality of service is among other issues still hotly debated. Gov. Mike Beebe said he'd be happy to have a session on this issue if the votes are there. An existing state broadband network that serves colleges would be the vehicle for public school service.

I am happy to report one thing:

FASTERArkansas, after months of lobbying and untold expenditures, has filed a lobbyist registration form. It lists Jerry Jones and Elsa Becker as lobbyists for the organization. The form was filed July 14.

It will be interesting if the significant expenditures are reported. It would be nicer still if the source of the money had to be disclosed. Walton money is a major bankroll. No doubt they can afford any and all costs. FASTERArkansas is also a 501c4, which means it will be required to make some limited disclosures on federal tax reporting forms in return for its favored tax status.

 FASTERArkansas is bringing its message of getting every Arkansas student a 21st century education on a statewide tour beginning this week. The principles of the organization center around the fact that Arkansas schools need better access to Internet content, video, and courses for the upcoming school year. Many schools in the state do not have the capacity to meet those challenges. Current law (Act 1050) currently prohibits schools from having an option to access an existing taxpayer funded infrastructure.

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