Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

An amendment the Senate added to a rural broadband bill that would ban providers from collecting their customers’ information without permission appears to be in trouble in the Assembly.

Chair Mike Kuglitsch, R-New Berlin, said his Energy and Utilities Committee will exec the Assembly version of the broadband bill next week. He expects the committee to approve two amendments to the bill, but the privacy provision the Senate added is not one of them.

Kuglitsch said those backing that change should put it in a separate bill.

“If we want to debate privacy and the right thing to do, let’s have that debate,” Kuglitsch said. “But it’s not attaching an amendment to this bill.”

The Senate last week passed its version of the bill, which would alter the criteria for broadband expansion grants and make $18.5 million more available for the effort.

The chamber also added an amendment authored by Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, to prevent providers from collecting their customers’ information without permission and to ban them from refusing to provide service to those who don’t approve.

The amendment was added a day after President Trump signed legislation to repeal FCC rules that would have required broadband companies to get permission from their customers before using data — such as their browsing history, financial and other sensitive information — to create targeted ads.

After Shilling proposed the amendment, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, originally moved to have the proposal ruled non-germane. But after the Senate broke to hear the State of the Tribes address, Fitzgerald withdrew his objection and then vote for the amendment, which passed unanimously.

If the Assembly takes up its version of the bill, the legislation would have to go back to the Senate again before it could head to the guv’s desk.

“The bill passed the Senate unanimously. It’s frustrating that Assembly Republicans are going to delay efforts to get broadband grant money in the hands of Wisconsin communities that need help the most,” said Tony Palese, a spokesman for Shilling.

Kuglitsch said the two amendments he plans to add to the Assembly bill includes one that would extend the deadline to hand out some of the money. The bill would make several changes to the broadband grant program now overseen by the PSC. It would also impact the TEACH program, which administers block grants to schools to improve IT infrastructure.

Under current law, the program ends July 1. Kuglitsch said one amendment would push back until the end of August the deadline to distribute the money.

The other, from Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, would make sure a half-dozen school districts remain eligible for the grants under the revised criteria in the bill.

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