Bill to Limit Broadband Competition in North Carolina Heads to House Finance Committee Next Week

On Wednesday, the bill to effectively ban community networks in North Carolina was passed out of the House Public Utilities Committee and will likely be heard by the Finance committee next week.

The audio is available here from the Wednesday meeting [mp3, 45 min].

It never fails to shock me how cavalierly some Committees refuse to discuss the bill, agreeing to let another Committee fundamentally change the bill. There is practically no discussion of what this bill does and very little discussion about the actual pros and cons of different approaches to providing broadband.

Listening to the discussion, one gets the distinct impression that a household either has "broadband" or doesn't. There is no discussion of the known failure of the private sector to invest in next-generation networks. If I were a Representative in North Carolina, I would be sure to ask why no private sector provider is building next-generation fiber-optic networks like those in Wilson, Salisbury, and hundreds of communities served by Verizon's FiOS outside the state. There is no discussion of the wisdom of relying on last-century cable and copper networks.

Horse and buggy

Those pushing this bill have no idea what they are doing. They may gut the potential for full fiber-optic networks in the state as the rest of the world charges forward building these networks. They are defending the horse-and-buggy industry in the age of automobiles.

Listen for the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce weighing in against community networks, the only entities investing in the next-generation networks needed for the digital economy. The Chamber cares more about its high profile members (cable and phone companies) than the 99% of businesses in North Carolina that need the kind of broadband available in Wilson and Salisbury. These organizations should not be allowed to get away with pretending to represent business interests in the state. They represent the largest businesses that are most often headquartered out of state.

And in the middle of discussion, a Representative basically says the bill should keep moving, no matter how flawed, because to do otherwise would leave less incentive to improve it. Fascinating that the only way to make this bill better is to avoid any discussion of it or allowing members to understand what it does.

With a simple voice vote that was fairly cleanly split between aye and nay, the Chair pushed it on.

It bears remembering that a similar bill last year was admittedly authored and advanced by Time Warner Cable. This year is no different, with supposed meetings to negotiate changes to the bill turned over to TWC to run.

Stop the Cap! discusses local resolutions passed against the bill - we will post those here as soon as we can OCR them rather than posting a non-searchable pdf.

You can find a list of Finance Committee members to contact here.

Horse and buggy photo used under creative commons, courtesy of Cindy Seigle.