April 17, 2005

Illinois Senate Approves Rewrite of State's Telecom Act

On Friday, April 15, the Illinois State Senate approved a proposed rewrite of the Illinois Telecommunications Act, the main law in the state of Illinois which governs state policy involving telephone, telecommunications, and the internet.

The bill had caused serious concern among community organizers since it would appear to allow considerable subsidies for dominant telecommunications companies, and would reduce public service obligations and protections against price gouging.

Organizers also feared that such legislation might indirectly act to abolish municipal rights towards establishing community internet, as is already done in more than a dozen states.

One coalition of citizen organizers and public interest lobbyists in Illinois has coalesced under the umbrella designation Get Illinois Online (www.getillinoisonline.org) to work on the legislation.

The bill in question, SB 1700, passed by a 37-14 vote, with 7 abstentions. April 15 had been the final day for first-house passage of bills in the current Illinois General Assembly.

Despite the passage, the legislative struggle continues. The Illinois State House will now take up the issue of the Telecom Rewrite, where a proposal is waiting to grant a one-year extension on the issue. In the meantime, the Illinois State Senate will focus on Digital Literacy legislation.

Community organizing on telecommunications issues in Illinois also continues. Community meetings would be held to discuss the legislation and its impacts, according to an email was posted to the Get Illinois Online mailing list by Layton Olson of the Illinois Community Technology Consortium.

Planned venues include May 5, 2005 in Champaign, May 6 in East St. Louis, and Springfield on May 19.

The Illinois General Assembly may adjourn by Memorial Day.