Local Politics

Committee OKs Bill to Limit Municipal Telecom Plans

Posted June 6, 2007
Updated June 7, 2007

— A bill that would limit municipal efforts to provide telecommunications services cleared a House committee Wednesday after a tense hearing.

Cable television and telephone companies are backing House Bill 1587, which would put restrictions on cities and counties that try to offer residents such services, including high-speed Internet.

"It's an issue of fair competition and local government not using their taxing and borrowing authority in a way that gives them a competitive advantage over private business," said Randy Fraser, a lobbyist for Time Warner Cable.

The bill would require municipal communications services to charge taxes so their rate structure is comparable to that of a private service and would prevent government workers from working for the cable or Internet service while being paid by another department.

Wilson officials plan to borrow and spend $30 million by next January to wire the city for high-speed Internet, cable and phone service. They said they are tired of waiting for Time Warner to upgrade service to the town, which isn't seen as a major profit center because of its size.

Most government offices are already connected by fiber-optic cables, along with two of Wilson's biggest businesses.

"The bill you are considering would be a devastating blow to local governments all across the state," Wilson Mayor Bruce Rose told members of the Committee on Public Utilities Wednesday.

Industry representatives fired back that many municipalities have failed at the cable business before, costing taxpayers millions.

The bill cleared the committee and was sent to the House Finance Committee. As a compromise, lawmakers stripped out a provision that would require a voter referendum before getting into the telecommunications business.

But local government representatives said they aren't giving up their fight against the measure.

"The telecommunications industry is very wise and strategic, and they introduced the bill in a committee that they knew it would pass. We simply wanted to get our message heard, and we're preparing for the next battle that lies ahead," Wilson City Manager Grant Goings said.

"This isn't David versus Goliath. This is David versus Goliath and all his cousins," Rose said.


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  • .45 Jun 8, 2007

    Sux2bStupid "oh i just can't WAIT to hear what the republiSHAMs argument in favor of this is going to be!"

    This bill has as many Dem. sponsors as Rep. corruption is always bipartisan.

  • ohmygosh Jun 7, 2007

    For those of you who take having high speed for granted, try and get it in the sticks. The monopoly already exists and doesn't provide service in the sticks. They have no intention to either.

    Anye law should give the prevailing private providers so many months to provide the service or loose their right to object to local goverment providing it.

    I think the liberals out there can justify this as being part of their concept of a "safety net". After all it is a world wide web.

  • just saying Jun 7, 2007

    When will they learn government will mess this up it always does its always better privatize. Look around Medicaid, Medicare, and Education just to name a few. Anything the government does will become bloated with people and paper... Every local politican will be getting a job for some relative or friend. This issue as I understand it was Time Warner would not up grade well get someone who will there is plenty of compition out there. This will become a taxpayer burdern in the not to distant future.

  • scooperhsd Jun 6, 2007

    HP277 has it exactly right - Telephone and cable want to continue their monoplies. If the incumbents won't upgrade - then let the municipalities do the job.

  • ReallyBigYawn Jun 6, 2007

    Look on the bright side. At least the local government won't get their grubby little hands on the taxes that will be generated to build the system. Everyone would have to pay whether they get cable or not. Then the installation will be under bid and past deadline. No it's better left to the private sector.

  • hp277 Jun 6, 2007

    The telephone and cable companies have a MONOPOLY and they are afraid of having competition.

  • Sux2bStupid Jun 6, 2007

    oh i just can't WAIT to hear what the republiSHAMs argument in favor of this is going to be!

  • Nothing New Jun 6, 2007

    If the local cable or telephone company have not put in place the infrastructure to provide high speed internet, then why not let the local city/county government provide that service. Especially if the local providors consider it not a major profit center and have no plans to do so. I agree the goverments should not use taxpayer based monies and use existing rate structures just as phone and cable companies. I also think that local governments should not compete with existing telephone and cable companies in providing those services as well. They should porvide what is miss, of course then its not profitable. They should also not be allowed to use tax monies for salaries. But again if local service providors dont provide a service, then its up to local governments to bring thier communities into the internet age.