Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Essential ban on new public power companies and projects barely fails -- will public Internet infrastructure be next?

California voters narrowly rejected proposition 16 yesterday. Had it passed, it would have essentially banned new and expanded municipal power projects, by requiring 2/3 majority support from voters before local governments could form or expand municipal utilities.

Pacific Gas and Electric (the power company portrayed in the movie about Erin Brockovich) spent over $46 million on the campaign.

PG&E's non-stop ads claimed to be protecting our right to vote, but blocking competition from municipal power companies was the clear motive. Had their goal been thoughtful debate on proposed public power projects, they would have said so in their ads, and called for a simple majority rather than a prohibitive 2/3 majority.

This was a close call, and it illustrates the political power of a wealthy corporation.

Large ISPs like Verizon and AT&T fight vigorously against public Internet projects by lobbying at all levels and in court. Might we one day see a proposition on the "right to vote on public Internet projects?"