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Greater Freedom For Telecom Industry Making Counties Nervous

Sang You via flickr

Florida counties are uniting to block what they say is an historic assault on home rule. This comes as state lawmakers consider legislation that would curb the power of local governments to regulate themselves.

Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch is opposing a bill that would limit counties’ ability to charge telecom giants like AT&T and Verizon for installation fees.

“As county commissioners we strongly support the advancement and expansion of mobile technologies for our communities. However the cost of that expansion should not be shifted from multi-billion dollar communication companies to the backs of local taxpayers,” Welch said.

Welch characterizes the agreement as corporate welfare, a which has become somewhat of a buzzword this session among reform-minded lawmakers. 

“Limiting what counties can charge these companies for their use of taxpayer-funded and maintained utility poles amounts to a taxpayer subsidy to private, for-profit companies,” Welch said.

The bill would also make it easier for telecoms to install equipment on public land, with little input from local communities. The plan is moving in both chambers and has the support of multiple committees.