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.’ ... 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.
Tag: "north carolina"
FCC Commissioner Copps spoke at the SEATOA Conference in Asheville, North Carolina, on Tuesday. He went out of his way to condemn legislation that would preempt the authority of local governments to build broadband networks, echoing a similar statement from his colleague, Commissioner Clyburn.
But he started with a discussion about the importance of broadband access to the Internet:
Getting broadband out to all our citizens is not just something that would be nice for us to do. It is something essential for us to do if we want to provide individuals the opportunity to live productive and fulfilling lives in the Twenty-first century and something equally imperative if we want our country to have a competitive edge in this challenging world.
But he moved on to highlight the importance of communities having the right to build their own networks, should they deem it necessary:
When incumbent providers cannot serve the broadband needs of some localities, local governments should be allowed--no, encouraged--to step up to the plate and ensure that their citizens are not left on the wrong side of the great divide. So it is regrettable that some states are considering, and even passing, legislation that could hinder local solutions to bring the benefits of broadband to their communities. It's exactly the wrong way to go. In this context, too, our previous infrastructure challenges must be the guide. The successful history of rural electrification, as one example, is due in no small part to municipal electric cooperatives that lit up corners of this country where investor-owned utilities had little incentive to go. Those coops turned on the lights for a lot of people! You know, our country would be a lot better off if we would learn from our past rather than try to defy or deny it.
We strongly support his comments, while emphasizing that an incumbent that simply provides DSL or cable services must not be construed as necessarily serving the broadband needs of communities. Many of the best broadband networks in this...Read more
It will come as no surprise to those familiar with this space that the leading critic of MI-Connection, a cable network in North Carolina owned by local governments, has been revealed to be an employee of Time Warner Cable. Hat tip to Stop the Cap! for bringing it to our attention last night.
We have long watched massive cable/phone companies flood public meetings (both honestly and surreptitiously) with their employees to give the perception of widespread opposition to a publicly owned network. So while this is nothing new, the practice must be highlighted as something community networks should be aware of -- much like the rampant abuse of the commenting system in the Salisbury Post, where any story that mentions the community fiber network Fibrant is slammed by a few people who post under many different identities to give the impression of widespread disapproval.
MI-Connection has been plagued by problems since buying a system that was in considerably worse shape than expected, thus requiring more capital to rehab and upgrade it. An additional problem has been the image damage done by relentless critics (noted last week):
Venzon [Chairman of Board for MI-Connection] said he’s frustrated because the publicly owned company still fights an image problem.
“With the improvements we made to the system, I thought that people would be lined up out the door,” Venzon said. “I thought they’d see this as ours, this is us, and it just bugs me that we get such poor PR out there. We have not won that battle.
And now we know that a major critic of the network works for Time Warner Cable, a company vociferously opposes muni networks as a threat to their de facto monopoly. It would not be as much of a story though if he hadn't denied his employment with TWC for so long in order for his attacks on the publicly owned network to be more effective.
MI-Connection board chair John Venzon posted the...
It took far more longer than expected, due to the many phone calls from concerned citizens opposing it, but Time Warner Cable's investments in the North Carolina Legislature have finally paid off. A bill that will crush its only potential broadband competition in the state is sitting on the Governor's desk. We join with SEATOA, the vast majority of businesses in North Carolina who depend on broadband, and local communities in calling on the Governor to veto it.
The NC House had to approve it again due to changes made in the Senate -- including a change that absolutely gutted the rural exemption for communities who are lacking access broadband access to the Internet. Representative Avila and other sponsors have made many promises throughout this process that they never intended to hold true to.
SEATOA has long organized to preserve local authority in this matter and reported:
We made certain Rep. Avila understood that that clarification gutted the exemption and she did not care. e-NC reports that the private sector providers are permitted to report an entire Census Block as having access to internet, if only one home in the block actually has it. In essence, North Carolina will have no "unserved areas" or communities will have to do their own door to door surveys, an expensive and monumental feat.
But what do you expect from elected officials who calls something a "level field" while bragging that they are crafting rules (such as limited service territories) that only apply to the community networks, which already operate at a disadvantage to a $19 billion a year competitor like bill author Time Warner Cable?
When the bill passed the Senate, a newspaper in Davidson noted its unequal approach that further handicapped communities:
Davidson Mayor John Woods said Tuesday MI-Connection deserves to be treated the same as private companies.
“We strongly object to the territory limits that this bill will impose on MI-Connection which are not imposed on other broadband providers. In addition, MI-Connection would remain subject to open meeting laws, which do not apply to those other providers,” he said.
Mr. Venzon also said local governments already face other rules that put them at a disadvantage to private competitors, including the requirement to...
As Time Warner Cable's bill to limit competition from community networks nearly finished its exciting journey through the North Carolina Legislature, it found itself in a madhouse where the sponsor of TWC's bill (Senator Apodaca) accused another Senator of allowing his children to watch adult content.
Stop the Cap! wrote up the details, including a discussion of why Senator Apodaca's amendment to deny adult programming to publicly owned networks violates federal law. This is yet another "level playing field" requirement that handicaps publicly owned networks but does not touch Time Warner Cable -- no surprise given TWC's influence with the current group of Legislators in Raleigh.
One of the most frustrating aspects of this ongoing saga is that it does nothing to help people and businesses get the access to the Internet they need for economic development, better health care and education outcomes, and more. This absurd debate is just about how fast North Carolina can walk backwards. Time Warner Cable and CenturyLink want Time Warner Cable to sprint backwards to protect the monopoly revenues. We are working with North Carolina's communities to stop it from moving backward at all. But nothing in here is helping communities to move forward and be competitive in the digital economy.
There is still time to oppose this bill - contact information here at Stop the Cap!.
Once again, we have some audio clips from the Legislature below.
A short update on yesterday's hearing of the Senate Finance Committee on Time Warner Cable's bill (HB 129) to level community broadband in North Carolina: the bill was passed and will head to the Senate Floor (
but not this week) TODAY. It has been modified to expand the anti-compettion fence being built around Wilson and Salisbury, both of whom operate muni fiber networks, offering the best connections in the state. Both will now be able to expand slighty more (as opposed to private companies, who are free to offer service anywhere in the state), which is great for those nearby communities that now have some hope for competition in the future but remains disappointing for the vast majority of the state's residents and businesses, who will shortly have no hope of any real improvement in their access to the Internet.
Senators need to continue hearing from constituents on this bill - they will all be on the spot on the Senate Floor when it comes up for passage. This will happen TODAY at noon (EDT), listen here for the railroading.
The result of this bill will be to lessen any incentive for private companies like Time Warner Cable and CenturyLink to increase investment in the communities they serve because they know the local government now has no power to build a better network that would threaten their monopoly profits. And in areas without any access to broadband, the present Legislature seems to have no interest in solving that problem until those rural folks can pony up campaign contributions on the level of Time Warner Cable.
We will plan to get some of the interesting audio clips online when they are avaialble.
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...Read more
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...
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.
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.