Tag: "north carolina"

Posted June 7, 2010 by christopher

As I have considered writing yet another post about this debacle in North Carolina, I worried that readers outside of North Carolina might ignore it, thinking they cannot help and it doesn't impact them. Well, we can all learn a lesson from the fight in North Carolina to preserve local self-determination.

The same forces that are pushing North Carolina to crush the rights of communities to build the infrastructure they need are talking to elected officials and policymakers across the country. They are saying that the U.S. really does not have a broadband problem, that people are happy with their DSL and cable options.

Elected officials and policymakers very seldom hear from the other side - as Philip Dampier notes here and reinforces in the comment section here.

Sure, most states have organizations like a League of Cities or Munis or Towns and these organization are often fairly powerful. However, very few state legislatures have anyone speaking consistently for the rights of consumers. In DC, Free Press, Public Knowledge, and Media Access Project all do good work on the federal level but have little capacity to work on the state level. I try to help in state efforts wherever possible, but we have neither the funding nor staffing to really offer substantial help on any of these issues.

Someone needs to represent the interests of broadband subscribers -- and right now the only option is YOU. The folks at Stop the Cap! often make that easier by keeping you informed and providing the information you need to contact reps and policymakers.

But you need to make the call.

When you contact your reps to tell them you are not happy with your services and your choices in broadband, they are less likely to buy the industry claims that everything is hunky-dory and there is no reason for new policies that would encourage competition or allow communities to build for themselves the networks that no one else will.

When you do not make calls or write to your Reps, they de-prioritize broadband...

Read more
Posted June 3, 2010 by christopher

Update: Thanks to Mark Turner (@mtdotnet) for tape-delayed tweets updating what happened. He has reported: "Senator Joe Sam Queen objects to third reading of S.1209! It remains on the calendar!" This can still be stopped in the Senate. End Update

Update 2: Thanks to Senator Queen for his crucial objection, delaying passage today. His motivation for opposing this bill so strongly? His communities have been ignored by the private sector:

"They’re just frustrated that it’s not getting done by the cable companies, the network companies, whoever’s doing it. They’re just cherrypicking and leaving off so many of our citizens, and that’s just unacceptable."

Both Senator Queen and Senator Purcell should be thanked for their opposition to this handout to cable and telephone companies.
End Update 2

Despite the efforts of so many folks in North Carolina, the bill to stop communities from building broadband networks (forcing them to rely on whatever the incumbent wants to deploy, if anything) has passed out of the Senate Finance Committee. The Direct Revenue Laws committee has to examine it, but it will soon make its way to the floor of the Senate for a full vote (it did, see updates above).

At this point, we still hope the session ends before this bill can be sent to the Governor. Before sending it to the Gov, it must pass the full Senate, several House Committees, and then the full House. So make sure all your representatives know your feelings on it, and encourage your local leaders to tell State leaders to defend the rights of communities to build their own infrastructure. Contact information is detailed on this post.

The bill has changed once again, as summarized by IndyWeek:

The bill's language was revised this past week to include a moratorium. If the bill becomes law, the moratorium would extend through August 2011 when the legislature's long...

Read more
Posted June 1, 2010 by christopher

Update: Once, again, the committee has pushed the bill back... now to Wednesday afternoon. One wonders how normal people with jobs are supposed to follow legislation live when they have no certainty when a specific subject will be discussed. End Update.

After a short-lived victory last week, Time Warner's bill (to prevent communities from building broadband networks that would compete with them) will apparently be considered today. Once again, we refer you to Jay Ovittore at Stop the Cap! for more direct information on who you can contact in the state to register opposition to this monopoly protection act.

There is a new development though, Save NC Broadband suggests there is a new bill to specifically allow Caswell County to build a broadband network.

This sort of monopoly protectionist legislation is extremely frustrating because Time Warner and other similar companies have the funds and power to push it over and over again. We cannot win by simply rising up once and putting it down; we know it will come up time and time again. Each time, they will make more campaign contributions and hire more lobbyists because those expenses are small compared to what they would lose if communities gain a real choice between broadband networks.

Posted May 26, 2010 by christopher

Update: Apparently the bill was pulled from the Committee today. No word yet of what the next step is.

The Senate Finance Committee of the North Carolina Legislature will vote today on a bill to create more barriers for publicly owned networks, essentially preventing competition for communities throughout the state - a great boon to Time Warner and AT&T who are pushing the bill. The meeting is in Room 544 LOB and the vote will occur sometime after 1:00.

Stop the Cap! has a good list of people you can call about this bill as well as a discussion why it is poor policy.

Progressive States Action sent out an alert about the legislation with the following information that they have graciously allowed me to repost here:

Analysis of SB 1209: “No Nonvoted Local Debt for Competing System”

SB 1209, dubbed the "No Competing System" bill by broadband advocates, places North Carolina at a disadvantage compared to other states and global competitors by limiting municipalities’ ability to ensure that all North Carolinians have access to affordable, top-quality, and high-speed broadband. Universal access to high-speed broadband networks, combined with programs aimed at increasing broadband adoption, represents one of the best ways to reinvigorate a struggling economy. Broadband networks also provide state and local governments with a means to implement cost saving mechanisms, provide better access to needed services and stimulate job and business growth.

North Carolina communities have lost their tobacco, furniture and textile jobs to competition overseas. Currently, the unemployment rate in North Carolina is approximately 11.1%, representing the tenth highest unemployment rate in the nation. In some underserved areas without adequate access to broadband, the unemployment rates are even higher, reaching close to 17%. At a time when North Carolina needs more than ever to invest in 21st Century infrastructure such as broadband to build jobs for the future, SB 1209 impedes local governments from taking effective action. North Carolina’s largest cable provider raised rates 5-50% each year in 2007 and 2008 in all communities except those where municipalities were providing competitive cable service. By allowing...

Read more
Posted May 21, 2010 by christopher

The latest attack on publicly owned broadband networks in North Carolina now has an official name - S1209: No Nonvoted Local Debt For Competing System and will apparently be debated in committee next week.

This bill is meant to stomp out any competition from community-owned broadband networks - the only real threat to Time Warner and other absentee-owned incumbent operators in the state. Not only would this bill create high hurdles for communities that want to build broadband networks, it also could prevent existing networks from upgrading or expanding. The community-owned networks in Wilson and Salisbury are the most advanced broadband networks in the state.

It is not clear, but the law may even bar communities from building networks with federal funds, as under the broadband stimulus projects, for instance. A coalition of local governments, concerned citizens, and private businesses (some noted here) are coming together to stop this attempt to keep North Carolina locked into the last-generation networks of AT&T and Time Warner.

In previous years, similar efforts to prevent community networks all suggested that local governments derived unfair advantages because they could finance their networks with tax dollars (though very few community networks have taken that approach). Now the same people are arguing that local governments should only be able to finance networks with taxpayer-backed bonds - a dead giveaway that those pushing to limit community broadband have no higher principle than protecting incumbent operators from competition.

As we have chronicled in coverage of North Carolina, several newspapers have come out against this bill - most recently the Winston-Salem Journal:

The Journal has long argued that government borrowing without a vote of the people is both unwise and unconstitutional. But that is borrowing backed by the "full faith and credit" of the borrower, in this case, the people of the jurisdiction involved. So, if that is what the telecoms want, we support them.

But that protection is already written into the state constitution...

Read more
Posted May 20, 2010 by christopher

This video is no longer available.

Posted May 17, 2010 by christopher

Connected Nation and the utter lack of accurate maps depicting broadband options and metrics in this country reminded me of possibly my favorite comedian. George Carlin had a great routine about airlines and the safety speech given by flight attendants. In it, he has a throw-away line that continues to rattle around my head:

The safety lecture continues...

"In the unlikely event…"

This is a very suspect phrase! Especially, coming as it does, from an industry that is willing to lie about arrival and departure times!

After reading Larry Press' account of ordering DSL from Verizon, I couldn't help but wish George Carlin were still with us and also a giant broadband geek.

Larry Press' account on dealing with Verizon should be read in full, but this is what got me thinking:

Last week I ordered 7 mbps service from Verizon, but, after they switched it on, I was only getting about 1.5 mbps. I assume there were tons of retransmission errors due to an overly aggressive modulation scheme.

When I called to complain, a Verizon "technician" kept me on the phone … [and finally] got his bosses permission to schedule a "truck roll" to come to my house and fix the problem.

The minute the driver arrived, he told me that, at 9,000 feet from my central office, there was no way I was going to get 7 mbps.

We have long known that Verizon and similar companies are similarly willing to lie about their available broadband speeds (yah, I know, I'm no Carlin).

As I recently testified in a MN House hearing, the Connected Nation maps systematically overstate available broadband (particularly for DSL). And of course they do - Verizon doesn't even know what it can achieve at each premises (thought it damn well should know what it cannot offer 9,000 feet from the DSLAM).

The dumb question is: Does Verizon actually maintain a database of what it could really offer, in real world conditions, to each house (or what speeds are actually achieved when they take service). It might, but they may still just market faster speeds assuming (correctly) that most people will not know the difference between what they order and what they receive.

But the better...

Read more
Posted May 11, 2010 by christopher

"My issue is that cities should not be competing with private enterprise." - Senator Hoyle of North Carolina

Given this Senator's opposition to the public sector competing with the private sector, I assume he is fighting just as hard to shut down the libraries (or have Borders and Barnes and Noble neglected to donate enough to his candidacy?), as well as the schools (there are private schools), and the police (security guards are readily available on the private market). This is not merely a snarky attack on someone with whom I disagree, but a nod to the very serious problem that these massive companies can push their protectionist legislation everywhere.

Senator Hoyle, the driving force behind using state law to protect incumbent providers like Time Warner and AT&T from competition in broadband admitted his motivation at the beginning of a video from the recent committee hearing available on Stop the Cap!.

In it, the Senator also makes it clear that he is either unaware of what his legislation does or he is lying about it when he claims it does not affect the communities that have already built the most state-of-the-art networks in the state. His legislation would severely handicap each of them from upgrading despite his false claims that they are exempted. The post on Stop the Cap offers more background and discussion and I encourage readers to check it out.

As usual, I'll add my own short commentary about it. I previously explained why this bill's requirement for cities to use General Obligation Bonds is terrible policy.

Senator Hoyle claims the town of Mooresville did not know what they were doing. Listening to his discussion, it is abundantly clear that he doesn't know what he is talking about. I spoke with folks from Mooresville before they bought the cable system and I have spoken with them since. They got screwed by Adelphia and Time Warner in the deal and have had to take on additional debt. However, the idea that they have failed or were foolish in starting the network because they had an operating loss demonstrates the Senator's ignorance on broadband networks.

When anyone takes over a poorly maintained, old network and...

Read more
Posted May 7, 2010 by christopher

Time Warner, AT&T, and other incumbents have radically changed their strategy to prevent broadband competition in North Carolina via new restrictions that are being debated in the Legislature currently. This switch in strategy offers more proof that they stand on no principle aside from protecting their monopoly.

The famous HB 1252 in North Carolina is back... but different. In the past, the telcos and cablecos have argued that municipal broadband networks are unfair to them because the city could use tax dollars in some way to build the network (ignoring that most publicly owned networks do not use any tax dollars). Now, these companies are pushing a bill to require financing backed by taxpayer dollars. Seems like an odd switcheroo.

As one might expect from companies like AT&T and Time Warner, who have no respect for the public process, the bill was kept top secret until debated in committee, giving only the side filled with monied interests and lawyers an opportunity to prepare. The bill (that we have made available here as there is no official version yet) would not just place significant restrictions on new publicly owned networks, but would also handcuff existing networks like Salisbury and Greenlight in Wilson.

To reiterate, this bill will damage the most advanced broadband networks available in North Carolina today. Sounds like North Carolina wants to take up Mayor Joey Durel in Lafayette on his offer to welcome the businesses moving from North Carolina to Lafayette with a big pot of gumbo.

Fascinating that after an FCC Commissioner noted that the US Broadband Plan recognizes the right for communities to build their own broadband infrastructure, North Carolina is deciding it prefers to preclude any broadband competition, sticking with its last-century DSL and cable. Just fascinating.

The Salisbury Post has been watching and recently published a scathing editorial against the bill. This is one paragraph, but the whole editorial is well worth reading.

Yet, if the HB 1252's intent becomes reality, such areas will be severely hobbled in their near-term ability to tap into the broadband revolution. Private...

Read more
Posted April 28, 2010 by christopher

Thanks to Catharine Rice, who tipped me off to FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn's presentation at the SEATOA Conference yesterday. SEATOA is a regional group of states from the southeast of the US that are part of NATOA. Commissioner Clyburn noted that the FCC and the National Broadband Plan oppose state preemption of local broadband networks.

Thus, the Plan recommends that Congress clarify that State and local governments should not be restricted from building their own broadband networks. I firmly believe that we need to leverage every resource at our disposal to deploy broadband to all Americans. If local officials have decided that a publicly-owned broadband network is the best way to meet their citizens’ needs, then my view is to help make that happen.

One example of a town that took control of its own digital destiny – Bristol, Virginia saw additional jobs created in that area. And last month I heard Lafayette, Louisiana’s City-Parish President, describe the development of economic opportunities in his city, that were a direct result of the fiber network built by the community. Right here in North Carolina, I understand that Wilson and Salisbury are trying to invest in fiber optic systems, that they hope will transform their local economies.

When cities and local governments are prohibited from investing directly in their own broadband networks, citizens may be denied the opportunity to connect with their nation and improve their lives. As a result, local economies likely will suffer. But broadband is not simply about dollars and cents, it is about the educational, health, and social welfare of our communities. Preventing governments from investing in broadband, is counter –productive, and may impede the nation from accomplishing the Plan’s goal of providing broadband access to every American and every community anchor institution.

I can only hope that North Carolina's Legislature listen to this speech before they vote on preempting communities from building broadband networks. However, as documented at Stop the Cap, Time Warner and other telcos are able to talk pretty loudly with their campaign contributions.

...

Read more

Pages

Subscribe to north carolina