Tag: "state laws"

Posted April 26, 2011 by christopher

North Carolina's Senate Finance Committee is poised to take away the right of communities to decide for themselves if building their own broadband network is a good idea or not. If it passes out of this committee, it goes right to the Senate Floor and will likely become law.

We have covered Time Warner Cable's bill to kill community networks in greater depth than any other story -- and now folks in North Carolina have to immediately contact their Senators to oppose this power grab from big companies like TWC and CenturyLink. You can also use this form from Free Press if you are unsure who your Senator is.

In recent weeks, we've posted excellent speeches from legislators opposed to the bill, testimony from concerned citizens, and a variety of resolutions from local governments who are fearful of this bill's impact on public safety networks needed to keep residents and businesses safe.

If you are shy, you can call before or after business hours and leave a message on their voicemail. It takes less than five minutes. Your calls make a huge difference because so few constituents ever call state legislators. Simply let them know you oppose H129 and that the state should concern itself with expanding broadband access, not restricting who can offer it.

And as I have said numerous times, those outside North Carolina should also be contacting their elected leaders -- because everyone lives in a state where powerful lobbyists are trying to preserve and expand the power of a few massive companies like Time Warner Cable and AT&T. Progressive States Network recent covered this topic.

Two weeks ago, I wrote the following op-ed for The Wilson Times...

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Posted April 22, 2011 by christopher

Five years ago, Michigan decided to deregulate cable companies, preempting local authority to negotiate with cable companies in favor of a more relaxed statewide franchise. Many states have gone down this path in hopes of spurring competition and lowering the prices for service. All have seen very minimal gains (mostly from AT&T U-Verse and Verizon FiOS, deployments that have gone forward as well in states that did not preempt local authority). None have seen real decreases in prices.

Michigan also created greater hurdles for the public sector (click on Michigan on our Community Broadband Preemption Map for an explanation of the legislation). In short, Michigan made a big bet that the private sector would build the networks they need to remain competitive. The results are in.

"No matter how you look at it, 70 percent of Michigan's communities still have only one cable provider four years after deregulation," said Deborah Guthrie, President of MI-NATOA, in a statement. "Even in the places where two providers offer service, if serious competition existed, prices wouldn't run up several times faster than inflation and customer service wouldn't be so poor."

Michigan's National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Administrators joined with the Michigan Alliance for Community Media (neither of which seems to have much a web presence) to note that Comcast's prices for lifeline basic have gone up 18% with other services increasing 3x the rate of inflation. Most communities remain stuck with Comcast or Charter solely, two of the most hated corporations in America.

As we educate legislators around the country, we need to keep the lessons from Michigan in mind. Legislators often know very little about telecom issues and are bombarded by lobbyist talking points - but examples like Michigan clearly show what happen when the telco and cableco lobbyists make policy.

And so long as we are discussing Michigan, it is worth noting that the City of Detroit is pushing to have Michigan's statewide franchise law invalidated. Below you'll see the pdf of Detroit's recent...

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Posted April 21, 2011 by christopher

As we recently noted in our coverage of the Chelan Public Utility District in Washington state, state law restricts the authority of Public Utility Districts to offer retail services over the fiber-optic networks many have built. But at least one Representative is pushing to expand PUD authority.

Representative John McCoy has been working to improve rural broadband access and spurring more competition in Washington State. He brought a bill, HB 1711 that would allow PUDs to begin offering retail services as well as offer telecommunications services outside their traditional boundaries.

The bill did not go far this year, likely due to the considerable influence of large carriers like Charter, Frontier, and others. But Representative McCoy plans to bring it up again next year and may have more support depending on the recommendations of a current study. The University of Washington Law School is studying options to expand broadband access in rural areas. The final report is due in December and will address the option of allowing PUDs to offer retail access.

I strongly encourage people who may be interested in such developments in Washington to contact Rep McCoy or email me to find out how you can get involved. Quite frankly, we need to develop better networks to ensure citizens are aware of efforts like this bill so elected officials can be contacted in a timely manner.

At the bottom of this post, we have embedded a six minute audio clip of Rep. John McCoy discussing HB 1711 and issues around access to the Internet more generally from a Progressive States Network conference call earlier this month.

Digging into this bill, the summary of the bill [pdf] offers some history:

Public utility districts (PUDs) are municipal corporations authorized to provide electricity, water, and sewer service. In 2000, the Legislature authorized PUDs and rural port districts to acquire and operate telecommunications facilities...

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Posted April 20, 2011 by christopher

Google's Gigabit Chief, Milo Medin (actual title: VP for Access Services), told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the FCC takes too long to make decisions, causing uncertainty for a variety of companies and slowing innovation.

But more interestingly, he advocated that federal and state governments stop making it hard for local communities to build their own broadband networks.

Medin also advocated for a policy loathed by some parts of the cable industry: municipal broadband.

"Localities know more about what works for their communities than state governments or the federal government do. In the end, we feel that while this is probably not the right choice in many cases, it is something that should not be prohibited," he said.

Allowing communities to address their own broadband needs could help extend broadband to rural areas, according to Medin.

We have been offering in-depth coverage of Time Warner Cable's efforts to strip communities of that authority in North Carolina as well as other issues around preemption.

Medin's statement echoes that of the FCC National Broadband Plan: "Congress should make clear that Tribal, state, regional and local governments can build broadband networks." This recommendation was recently Reiterated by FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn:

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...

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Posted April 19, 2011 by christopher

We have again isolated individual comments from the arguments around Time Warner Cable's bill to strip local authorities of the right to build broadband networks vastly superior to their services. On April 13, the Senate Finance Committee allowed public comment on TWC's H129 bill. Craig Settles has posted an extended story about a small business struggling to get by with the existing paucity of service in her community.

There was no hope that I could efficiently communicate, collaborate, and share online documents and applications with clients and peer professionals. I couldn’t even buy a functional phone line. For years I paid for a level of service from Centurylink that I can only describe as absolutely embarrassing.

This bill will make it vastly harder, if not impossible, for communities to build the necessary infrastructure to succeed in the digital economy. Listening to those pushing the bill, it is very clear they have no conception of the vast difference between barely broadband DSL from CenturyLink and Wilson's Greenlight community fiber network -- essentially the difference between a hang glider and a Boeing 747. And many in North Carolina don't even have access to the hang glider! Yet the Legislature cares more about protecting the monopoly of powerful companies that contribute to their campaigns than ensuring all residents and businesses have access to the fast, affordable, and reliable broadband they need to flourish.

Thanks to Voter Radio for making audio from the hearing available.  Each of the following comments is approximately 2 minutes long.

Posted April 18, 2011 by christopher

We have isolated some of the more stirring comments from legislators opposing the Time Warner Cable bill to limit local authority to build, own, or operate their own broadband networks.  These come from the floor of the House of Representatives when the House voted to approve the bill and send it to the Senate.

It is worth noting that a variety of Republicans, particuarly from rural areas, had supported community rights over Time Warner Cable in some of the committee discussions around this bill.  But in the end, not a single Republican stood with local authority in this matter -- they all chose to overrule local decision-making with a one-size-fits-all approach from Raleigh that greatly favors massive companies like Time Warner Cable and CenturyLink.

Below, we have created bite-size chunks of speeches that capture some of the key arguments presented by those seeking to defend local authority.  

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...

Read more

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