Local Politics

Bill Would Unplug Wilson's Internet Effort

Posted May 31, 2007

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— A tug-of-war has begun over Wilson's effort to wire local neighborhoods for high-speed Internet service.

The city borrowed $18 million to install fiber-optic cables, saying they were tired of waiting to Time Warner Cable to provide the service to area residents.

"We want our businesses and our people here in Wilson to have the same tools they would have in any city in the world, and fiber-optics is the way to meet that need," said Brian Bowman, a spokesman for the city.

Most government offices are already connected, along with two of Wilson's biggest businesses, Bowman said. By January, city officials hope to offer far faster Internet, as well as phone and cable television services to local residents at prices comparable or less than Time Warner's older system, he said.

But Time Warner is fighting back.

Former House Speaker Harold Brubaker, R-Randolph, is co-sponsoring legislation that would put restrictions on governments that want to compete for communication services.

"There's a distinct advantage for a city who's not paying any taxes, compared to a private company who does pay income tax and other taxes," Brubaker said. "If the public is getting into the private sector, then they should play by the same rules."

House Bill 1587 would require local governments to put utility projects up for a referendum. Brubaker noted that various public utility projects have failed, leaving local communities in serious financial trouble.

Bowman called the bill an effort to "sandbag cities," arguing that cable companies often don't see smaller communities as a priority because they represent less profit.

"We would have loved it if they had come in years ago and put this in Wilson, but they simply didn't want to do it," he said. "We see it as a need that needs to be put in place. So, we do it ourselves. Now, there's legislation that would tells us we can't do it. That doesn't seem fair."

Wilson officials believe they have a viable business plan where customers will pay back the investment and not leave the city in a financial bind, Bowman said.

10 Comments

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  • .45 Jun 2, 2007

    In general I have a problem with the government competing with private business. In this case however, the cable company has a monopoly and competition is good for the consumer.
    None of the sponsors of this bill are from Eastern NC, 3 are Dem. and 2 are Rep., corruption is always bipartisan.

  • larry1 Jun 1, 2007

    if twc didn't give the people what they wanted and the city would good,and it's cheeper even better.maybe next time twc will listen to te people.

  • whatusay Jun 1, 2007

    seems most who read this article have the same thoughts...Why would a government official protest citizens paying less for a better service? Maybe I do not see the "big picture" here. Why would a government official from Randolpf Cty be supporting Time Warner and holding back the progress of a small town? Looks like a big pay-off for someone.

  • tiredofgovtwaste May 31, 2007

    Why should a member of the house from Randolph County care what thonse folks in Wilson are doing. he needs to be putting his efforts on bills that would benefit his home folks and not TWC. I bet there is some big $$$$ passing hands here as the representative for the fine folks in Wilson would not cave into the offer. Sounds like another investigation of a crooked official is on the horizion.

  • brooksdewire May 31, 2007

    I feel Brubaker's argument is groundless, Chamber of Commerce, deep pocket Republican, business protectionism. I think referendums on issues like this are a manipulative stalling tactic. Having said that I don't know enough about Wilson's plans to support tax $$$ for the purpose. In any case, most citizens would likely benifit if TWC had some competition.

  • Starbucksgirl64 May 31, 2007

    This is a shame. Wilson has put a lot of effort and money already into what is a great opportunity, not only for businesses but for the citizens of Wilson as well. The city's plan is for top notch service and technology at an affordable price. Not only that, such an upgrade to Wilson's infrastructure is very attractive to prospective business and industry. It can only enhance Wilson something TWC is not interested in doing!

  • melmika May 31, 2007

    I work with a guy who says Time Warner won't install cable because he lives too far away from the main road. So he went with Dish Network.

    The funny thing he says is after that he still get juck mail from Time Warner asking him to switch to them with special pricing. He calls up and they say they can't do it because he lives too far from the road. He says to stop mailing him but they still do.

  • applesmith May 31, 2007

    ITS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY BABY. LIKE I SAID NORTH CAROLINA GOVERMENT BIGGEST CRIME ORGANIZATION THERE IS. THEY MAKE LAWS TO SUIT THEM NOT THE PEOPLE JUST ASK CRIME BOSS/SYNDICATE JIM BLACK.

  • davidgnews May 31, 2007

    How much does TW contribute to Brubaker's war chest?

  • Hexzero May 31, 2007

    If TWC hasn't provided the service to Wilson, the city should have every right to do so. Why should TWC care if they didn't want the profits to begin with. Looks like TWC is massaging another R to get what they want. And he fell right into their pockets so to speak.