Tag: "preemption"

Posted April 15, 2011 by christopher

Another community in North Carolina has passed an official resolution opposing the Time Warner Cable bill to limit local authority to decide whether to build their own broadband network. Albemarle joins a growing list of other resolutions we have been able to collect, listed below this text.

A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY OF ALBEMARLE URGING MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND GOVERNOR PERDUE TO OPPOSE 11129 AND S87 (LEVEL PLAYING FIELD/LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMPETITION ACT) AND ANY LEGISLATION WHICH WOULD PROHIBIT OR LIMIT THE ABILITY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO PROVIDE BROADBAND OR ANY OTHER COMMUNICATION SERVICES OR SYSTEMS

WHEREAS, Senate Bill 87 and House Bill 129 have been introduced in the 2011- 2012 Session of the General Assembly of North Carolina; and

WHEREAS, these bills do not provide a level playing field to cities, towns and counties, but greatly hinder local governments from providing needed communications services, including public safety networks, and especially advanced high-speed broadband services, in unserved and underserved areas; and

WHEREAS, these bills impose numerous obligations on cities and towns that private broadband companies do not have to meet; and

WHEREAS, while private companies declare top-quality broadband service is cost prohibitive, the United States continues to lose ground to other nations in broadband access, user cost and growth in number of users, falling behind the United Kingdom, Korea, France, Japan, Canada, Estonia, and now China, each of which provides Internet access at speeds that are some 500 times faster than what the private providers in the United States and at less cost; and

WHEREAS, the bills would prohibit North Carolina cities and towns from using federal grant funds to deploy or operate locally-owned or operated broadband systems, thereby denying N.C. residents access to federal assistance available to the rest of the country and hindering employment opportunities; and

WHEREAS, deployment of high-speed Internet is a new public utility vital to the future economic development, educational outreach and community growth in North Carolina necessary to replace lost textile, tobacco, furniture and manufacturing jobs; and

WHEREAS, the General Assembly has already established: (1) rules governing Public...

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Posted April 14, 2011 by christopher

Regarding H129: testimony from communities, as well as Time Warner Cable, and groups like "Americans for Prosperity" who believe if private companies don't want to offer you access to the Internet, you shouldn't have access to the Internet.

This video is no longer available.

Posted April 13, 2011 by christopher

South Carolina has been quietly debating a bill to further erode the right of communities to decide locally whether they want to build broadband networks. South Carolina already restricts the rights of communities to build these networks but HB 3508 / SB 483 will effectively make any local government ownership of telecommunications facilities impossible.

Unsurprisingly, this bill is opposed by the South Carolina Association of Counties and the Municipal Association of South Carolina. But the lead opposition to it has come from Bill Clark, an Administrator from rural Orangeburg County. On the other side is AT&T, the nation's 10th largest company.

The bill is blatantly protectionist for AT&T interests, throwing South Carolina's communities under the bus. But as usual, these decisions about a "level playing field" are made by legislators solely "educated" by big telco lobbyists and who are dependent on companies like AT&T for campaign funds. Even if AT&T's campaign cash were not involved, their lobbyists talk to these legislators every day whereas local communities and advocates for broadband subscribers simply cannot match that influence.

We see the same unlevel playing field, tilted toward massive companies like AT&T, in legislatures as we do locally when communities compete against big incumbents with their own networks. Despite having almost all the advantages, they use their tremendous power and create even more by pushing laws to effectively strip communities of the sole tool they possess to ensure the digital economy does not pass them by.

South Carolina's access to broadband is quite poor -- 8th worst in the nation in access to the the kinds of connections that allow one to take advantage of the full Internet according to a recent FCC report [pdf].

A letter from Bill Clark to Senators notes that their county has an industrial park with over 1 million sq ft of developed facilities housing two Fortune 500 companies that private companies have not served [pdf].

This comes as no surprise given the facts:

  • South Carolina is served predominately by massive private providers...
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Posted April 12, 2011 by christopher

Chapel Hill has joined many other communities in North Carolina officially opposing the Time Warner Cable bill to strip communities of the right to build their own broadband networks. The bottom of this post has links to similar resolutions we have tracked down.


A RESOLUTION URGING MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND GOVERNOR PERDUE TO OPPOSE H129 AND S87 (LEVEL PLAYING FIELD/LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMPETITION ACT) AND ANY LEGISLATION WHICH WOULD PROHIBIT OR LIMIT THE ABILITY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO PROVIDE BROADBAND OR ANY OTHER COMMUNICATION SERVICES OR SYSTEMS (2011-03-14/R-7)

WHEREAS, Senate Bill 87 and House Bill 129 have been introduced in the 2011-2012 Session of the General Assembly of North Carolina; and

WHEREAS, these bills do not provide a level playing field to cities, to cities, towns and counties, but greatly hinder local governments from providing needed communications services, including public safety networks, and especially advanced high-speed broadband services, in unserved and underserved areas; and

WHEREAS, these bills impose numerous obligations on cities and towns that private broadband companies do not have to meet; and

WHEREAS, while private companies declare top top-quality broadband service is cost prohibitive, the United States continues to lose ground to other nations in broadband access, user cost and growth in number of users, falling behind the United Kingdom, Korea, France, Japan, Canada, Estonia, and now China, each of which provides Internet access at speeds that are some 500 times faster than what the private providers in the United States and at less cost; and

WHEREAS, the bills would prohibit North Carolina cities and towns from using federal grant funds to deploy or operate locally-owned or operated broadband systems, thereby denying N.C. residents access to federal assistance available to the rest of the country and hindering employment opportunities; and

WHEREAS, deployment of high-speed Internet is a new public utility vital to the future economic development, educational outreach and community growth in North Carolina necessary to replace lost textile, tobacco, furniture and manufacturing jobs; and

WHEREAS, the General Assembly has already established: (1) rules governing Public...

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Posted April 12, 2011 by christopher

Time Warner Cable's bill to kill competition by limiting the right of communities to build their own broadband networks will have a committee hearing this week in North Carolina's Senate. Stop the Cap! has details in its action alert -- we encourage people to continue contacting their Senators as well as contacting local officials and telling them to contact Senators.

We have seen some interesting news coming out of North Carolina recently, including Salisbury connecting its 500th customer to its publicly owned Fibrant network [pdf]. Additionally, some nine nearby communities have told Raleigh they want to preserve their right to be served by Fibrant (the bill would greatly limit the territory in which Fibrant can expand, unlike private companies which have the freedom to expand across the state). The story starts with a church in one of the communities, Faith:

Mahoney said his church, Faith Baptist, would like faster Internet speeds but can’t afford the $20,000 Time Warner Cable would charge to build a business-class circuit for the church.

Church members are not satisfied with DSL service from Windstream, Mahoney said. But it’s their only option since they can’t afford Time Warner’s price tag, he said.

If Salisbury extends Fibrant to Faith, the church would have another choice for high-speed Internet, said Mahoney, who owns Rowan Onsite Computer Solutions in downtown Salisbury and has Fibrant.

This bill, inaptly named "Level Playing Field" creates new restrictions for publicly owned networks like Fibrant, which under current law can offer services to any community requesting them.

Stop the Cap

...

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Posted April 11, 2011 by christopher

I wrote an op-ed for the Durham Herald Sun about the efforts in North Carolina to limit local authority to build community networks. We will continue heavy coverage on North Carolina and other states in danger of passing anti-competitive, pro-monopoly legislation proposed by powerful, massive carriers. Here is the op-ed:

After more than four years of lobbying, Time Warner Cable may finally succeed in restricting the authority of local communities to build their own broadband networks.

Its legislation, H 129/S 87, will enact a host of special requirements for publicly owned networks that do not apply to networks run by the cable and phone companies.

The "Level Playing Field / Local Gov't Competition" bill could more appropriately be called the "Monopoly Protection Act." Rather than actually leveling the playing field, this bill solely disadvantages publicly owned networks.

Time Warner Cable has convinced the House that a massive $18 billion-per-year company operating one of the largest telecommunications networks on the planet, is powerless to compete against a community-owned network like Greenlight in Wilson or Fibrant in Salisbury.

Bill sponsor Rep. Marilyn Avila has simply had enough of "predatory" (her word) local governments shaking down AT&T and TWC. The champion of a similar bill last year, Sen. David Hoyle, candidly admitted it was written by TWC. There is no reason to suspect anything changed this year.

But perhaps the more fantastical element of this story is that the Legislature's biggest broadband priority is to limit, not expand, broadband investments in the state ranked 41st in broadband. Just how bad is North Carolina's broadband? When Broadband.com launched its new map showing the prices paid by small businesses for broadband, seven of the 10 most expensive cities were located in North Carolina. Anchorage barely beat out Greensboro for the highest average price per Mbps. This is why major private sector companies like Google and Intel have gone on the record opposing TWC's bill.

Fast, reliable, and affordable access to the Internet is essential for communities to thrive in the modern age. This...

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Posted April 10, 2011 by christopher

Several days at the National Conference for Media Reform in Boston gave me time to reflect on the importance of protecting local authority to build, own, and operate their own networks connecting people and businesses to the Internet. Multiple presentations focused on the importance of and strategies for ensuring access to the Internet is not controlled by a few companies -- and most of these strategies are focused at federal government agencies and Congress.

While we support these efforts, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance is not a DC-centric organization. We try to help folks in DC learn about what is happening outside the beltway, but our passion and work focuses directly on helping local communities invest in themselves and preserve their self-determination. 

Access to the Internet will likely be the key infrastructure investment that determines how well communities fare in the coming years. Unfortunately, they have very little control over how those investments are made when the networks are owned by private, absentee companies. Efforts like Universal Service Fund reform, fixing the FCC, re-writing the telecom act, and ensuring network neutrality depend on overcoming incredibly powerful (due to their scale and lobbying power) interests in Washington, DC. But local communities have very little power outside their borders... with some in state capitals and practically none in the nation's capital.

Attacks at the state level on the fundamental right of communities to build this essential infrastructure are intended to eliminate their one means of gaining some control over their digital future. Too many states already ban or limit local authority to build these networks -- and with the Time Warner Cable bill to crush community networks in North Carolina picking up steam and South Carolina's similar attack even on broadband stimulus projects, we will see hundreds more communities with no power to ensure their citizens and businesses have access to fast, reliable, and affordable access to the Internet.

This is deeply concerning.  Taking away the one tool...

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Posted April 6, 2011 by christopher

I'm on the road this week, leaving me little time to post in depth, but wanted to make sure readers are aware of an action alert posted by Stop the Cap!:

Stop the Cap! has learned lobbyists for North Carolina’s cable and phone companies are growing concerned over increasing opposition to their custom-written duopoly protection bill that will ruin community broadband developments across the state and threaten ones already up and running. Now they’re in a mad dash to push S.87 (the Senate version of H.129) through the Senate Tuesday before you have a chance to call and express outrage over this corporate protectionism. Our sources tell us the bill has been yanked from the Senate Commerce Committee and is moving faster than North Carolina’s cable and DSL broadband to the Finance Committee, where bill sponsors hope for a quick voice vote and no public comment allowed.

This is incredibly disappointing given a recent finding that North Carolina has the worst broadband in the nation [pdf]. No surprise to see Time Warner Cable acting hastily to get this bill through before the public learns more about it. The bill is terrible for the citizens and businesses of North Carolina, but great for wanna-be monopolists like Time Warner Cable and CenturyLink. By ensuring communities cannot build better networks, they will be free to continue letting North Carolina slide into digital oblivion as they concentrate their investments in communities with actual competition. Click on the link above to Stop the Cap! for information on who to contact to stop this attack from Time Warner Cable on the right of local communities to decide what is best for themselves.

Posted April 4, 2011 by christopher

FCC Commissioner Clyburn Mignon has released a statement opposing "Anti-Municipal Broadband Legislation" [pdf], especially singling out the Time Warner Cable bill to kill community broadband in North Carolina.

STATEMENT BY FCC COMMISSIONER MIGNON L. CLYBURN ON PROPOSED ANTI-MUNICIPAL BROADBAND LEGISLATION

I have serious concerns that as the Federal Communications Commission continues to address broadband deployment barriers outlined in the National Broadband Plan, new obstacles are being erected that are directly contrary to the Plan’s recommendations and goals.

I recently learned that several state legislatures are considering bills that are contrary to the deployment objectives of the Broadband Plan. For example, in North Carolina, the state legislature is currently evaluating legislation entitled ‘Level Playing Field/Local Government Competition.’ Last week the North Carolina House passed the bill, and it currently awaits consideration in the Senate. This piece of legislation certainly sounds goal-worthy, an innocuous proposition, but do not let the title fool you. This measure, if enacted, will not only fail to level the playing field; it will discourage municipal governments from addressing deployment in communities where the private sector has failed to meet broadband service needs. In other words, it will be a significant barrier to broadband deployment and may impede local efforts to promote economic development.

The National Broadband Plan recommended that Congress clarify that State, regional, and local governments should not be restricted from building their own broadband networks. When providers cannot meet the needs of local communities, the Plan provides that State, regional, and local entities should be able to respond accordingly, as they were able to do when municipal governments distributed electricity to thousands of rural communities during the 20th Century. Unfortunately, this National Broadband Plan recommendation continues to be ignored by some broadband industry members that are encouraging these misguided efforts.

Not long after the National Broadband Plan was issued, I had the privilege to visit North Carolina and speak about the goals in the Plan, and the importance of our...

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Posted April 1, 2011 by christopher

In all of the hubbub around Google's Gigabit project announcement of Kansas City, Kansas, Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOm put up a fascinating post:

Chip Rosenthal headed the grass roots effort to bring Google’s gigabit fiber network to Austin, and he says the Texas capital was on the short list of cities that received a site visit and were in the final rounds. Unfortunately for Austin (and me since I’d be happy to plug into a fiber-to-the-home network) Google passed over the city and chose Kansas City, Kan. instead. Rosenthal, who is one of seven commissioners on the City of Austin’s Technology and Telecommunications Commission (a strictly advisory body), thinks it’s because Texas is one of four states that forbids municipalities from getting involved in building networks.

I frequently said that if I were at Google, I would not partner with a community in a state that has decided to limit local authority to make broadband investments. We do not know for sure what role these laws played, but it is interesting that Kansas City, Missouri, has much less freedom to build telecommunications networks than does Kansas City, Kansas.

From everything we know, this network will owned and operated by Google - which means we do not consider community broadband. Though we salute Google's approach of open access (allowing independent ISPs to use the network), the future of the network is tied to Google, not the community in which it operates. Our hope is that this network helps to prove the model of open access networks, making it more feasible for communities around the country to build their own such networks much as they build the roads on which modern communities depend.

And in the meantime, it is really, really dumb policy to take the choice of whether to build a community network out of the hands of the community.

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