Sunday, March 18, 2007

Callahan's Alert on Ohio Telecom Bill

Bill Callahan posts this weekend about a telecommunications bill that could seriously change the media landscape in Ohio. Bill is the liberal blogiverse’s undisputed expert in the business and economics of utilities in Ohio.

According to Bill, the telecom bill would remove from cities much of their power to negotiate franchise deals with local cable companies. He makes a compelling case that, as esoteric as this might sound, it is in fact a big deal. A Michigan law, enacted last year, provides the template for the bill and, most likely, similar bills across the country. From what I can tell, the franchise changes are much like those buried in the telecom bill considered by Congress last term.

Go to Bill’s blog and read both his post about the Ohio bill, and the old post about the Michigan bill. For that matter, you can check out his old blog for posts about last year’s telecom bill. Unfortunately, the Blogger search function seems not to be working there.

The bill, S.B. 117 is up on I finally used my user account on BillHop Ohio to post information about the bill.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jeff Jacobson is the lead sponsor on the bill. I had a quick look—see into Sen. Jacobson campaign filings. This is by no means a comprehensive review, but yes, there’s a there there.

On his 10/17/05 Semi-Annual report, Jacobson reports:

  • Ohio Cable Telecommunications Cable PAC: $2,000.00 01/27/2005

  • Three different Time Warner Employees giving donations totaling $400
On Jacobson’s 2005 Annual:
  • AT&T Ohio Employee PAC: $1,000.00 12/07/2005

  • Spring/United Telephone Company of Ohio Political Leadership Program PACC: $300.00 12/07/2005

  • Cincinnati Bell Federal PAC $200.00 12/07/2005
(Off the subject, Jacobson also got money from what is quite possibly the most unfortunately named PAC in history: Friends of Pork.)

(And while we're in parentheses, let me take some time to hate on Blogger for messing up html tables. There.)

Overall, it’s real money. It’s not “We Own Him” money, but it’s definitely “He’ll Return Our Phone Calls” money, and probably “He’ll Take the Meeting” money. I will also note that Jacobson gets a noticeable quantity of money from utilities generally, but I don’t know whether his haul is unusual. Bill says that bills like SB 117 are a collaboration between cable and telecom companies. Both groups have invested in Sen. Jacobson’s future.

Finally, note that this is yet another effort to strip cities of authority over business in their borders. From defunding local government funds to changes in school funding that disproportionately affect urban centers to whittling down home rule. If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect that majority Republicans have something against cities.