Politics & Government

Hearings on community broadband services bill postponed

Facing public backlash over a Senate bill that would outlaw community broadband services statewide, Sen. Julia Lynn, R-Olathe, announced on Monday the postponement of hearings set to take place this week.

Senate Bill 304 would prohibit cities and counties from building public broadband networks. The Commerce Committee, which Lynn chairs, was scheduled to have a hearing Tuesday, but Lynn released a statement that hearings have been postponed indefinitely.

“Based on the concerns I heard last week, I visited with industry representatives and they have agreed to spend some time gathering input before we move forward with a public hearing,” Lynn said in a statement.

“We’ll revisit the topic when some of these initial concerns have been addressed.”

Lynn elaborated while exiting a Senate Judiciary hearing. The senator said she has instructed “the parties” involved with the bill to address the public’s concerns. The bill was introduced by John Federico, a cable industry lobbyist.

“I’m just letting the parties work out their differences to make sure anything … that I decide to bring forward is ready for a hearing because the last thing I want to do is create confusion,” she said.

“I think there is some confusion out there about the bill, and I don’t want to waste anybody’s time.”

She said that some of the controversy stemmed from the public’s misunderstanding of the legislative process.

“They were making assumptions that it was kind of a done deal as presented,” Lynn said about phone calls and e-mails she received.

“I think because there was uncertainty about a couple of the provisions in the bill.”

One of the main fears of the bill’s opponents was that it would prevent other towns in the state from arranging partnerships like the one Kansas City has with Google. The company has provided the city with a high-speed network to public buildings in exchange for expedited permits and discounts, but no tax money was spent.

“I think what the intention is that we don’t use taxpayer money to compete against private industry,” Lynn said.

The senator said the bill will be tweaked to address the public’s concerns, but said there was no set timeline.

“If I’m not satisfied that it’s ready to go forward, then I’m not bringing it back,” Lynn said.