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Regulatory Picture: Prosper, TX - Infrastructure

Through legislation, Texas made it easy for phone companies to discontinue their carrier-of-last-resort (COLR) obligations, who now no longer have a state-based legal requirement to repair or replace service once it goes down. Carrier-of-last-resort efforts started to weaken with the introduction of competition from the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Since that time the large telecom companies have been able to walk away from carrier-of-last-resort obligations in most of their territory. Only in those areas where the telecom companies are still receiving federal high cost universal service fund (USF) support are they obligated to connect homes that request service.

Sometimes it is unclear who, or what is being regulated. Such is the case with the Public Utilities Commission of Texas when searching the directory of certified telecommunications providers (and municipalities participating in HB 1777) for Prosper, Texas:

Texas also outlaws certain categories of telecommunication service without ever using the words “broadband” or “internet.” Generally, legislation discourages public broadband services and public-private partnerships to provide service, while leaving some allowances for communities with no private options. Examples of these restrictions are as follows.

Texas Utilities Code, § 54.201

CERTIFICATION PROHIBITED.  The commission may not grant to a municipality a: 1) Certificate of convenience and necessity; 2) Certificate of operating authority; or 3) Service provider certificate of operating authority.

Texas Utilities Code, §43.001:

Encourages the deployment of Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) by permitting affiliates of the electric utility, or permitting unaffiliated entities, to own or operate all or a portion of such BPL systems. This act provides the appropriate framework to support the deployment of BPL.

SB 1004:

This bill was passed June 9, 2017 (during the 85th Legislature) and made effective September 1, 2017. The bill amended local government code for the state of Texas to include new uniform rules for deploying small cell infrastructure throughout the state. The bill also regulated the size, shape, and placement of wireless network equipment.

The bill bars municipalities from entering into exclusive agreements with wireless providers to access to public rights-of-way and utility poles. It caps permit fees for use of public rights-of-way to $250 per wireless facility. It also enables municipalities to designate specific designs for wireless facilities that are to be installed in historic districts.