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NLC members lobby Congress on telecom legislation.

Members of NLC's Information Technology and Communications (ITC) Action Team brought the local government perspective on pending telecommunications legislation to Capitol Hill with a lobby day in Washington, D.C.

The lobby day included several members of NLC and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA)'s Board of Directors.

The lobbying effort paired local elected officials with NATOA members, who are often the municipal officers that oversee communications operations and administration at the local government level.

Jointly, the team held a series of Congressional meetings primarily focused on video and cable franchising and municipal broadband legislation. NLC is opposed to national franchising legislation.

"More than 20 local elected officials have come to Washington to meet with members of Congress this week to lobby for the, telecommunications needs of municipalities, such as local franchising authority, controlling public rights of way, and, in the light of Hurricanes Katrina and now Rita, the return of radio frequency spectrum to public safety communications to ensure public safety," said Arvada Colo., Mayor Ken Fellman, chair of NLC's ITC Steering Committee. "It's very important that we stay involved in these telecom discussions and that we as local elected officials have a seat at the table."

Local leaders raised concerns about the devastating impact pending legislation such as the Video Choice Act (H.R. 3146/S.1349) and the Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act (S.1504) will have on local authority over franchise agreements, authority to provide municipal broadband, and the ability to prohibit economic redlining in local communities.

Private meetings were arranged with Congressional members and staff who have influence over telecommunications legislation. The team covered a significant portion of the commerce committees on both the House and Senate side; these committees will consider franchising legislation. Local officials met directly with Reps. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). Blackburn is the sponsor of H.R. 13146.

Lobby day participants saids the process worked particularly well because of legislative briefing they received prior to lobby day and the rare opportunity for one-on-one meetings.

"I think we were effective in communicating our desire to encourage competition but not at the expense of cities' right to manage the right of way," said ITC lobby day participant Lynn Williams, councilmember, Nashville, Tenn.

"It was a wonderful opportunity to interact with members of Congress and better appreciate what is motivating them," said Stan Alster, councilmember, Gaithersburg, Md.

The lobby day kicked off the fall meeting of the ITC Steering Committee.

The ITC Action Team developed from a recommendation that came from the ITC Steering Committee during its spring meeting. The steering committee felt it was important for NLC to form a smaller lobbying task force solely focused on the rewrite of the Telecommunications Act. The lobby day served as the first of several future endeavors for the ITC Action Team.

In July, members of the NLC Board of Directors carried out a successful lobby day focused on a broader set of legislative priorities.
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Author:Young, Nicole C.; Leanza, Cheryl A.
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Sep 26, 2005
Words:500
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