Local Politics

Google Weighs in on Municipal Telecom Debate

Posted June 21, 2007

— Search-engine giant Google is backing efforts by small North Carolina communities to offer Internet and other telecommunications services to their residents.

Communities has been locked in a legislative battle with telecom providers for the past two months over House Bill 1587, which would place restrictions on municipal communication services. Under the bill, cities or counties would have to charge taxes for such services so their rate structure is comparable to that of a private service and wouldn't be allowed to pull employees from other departments to work for the cable or Internet service.

"The legislation is important to create a level playing field because local government has the ability to tax, has the ability to take money from one enterprise and send it to another," said Randy Fraser, a lobbyist for Time Warner Cable.

Wilson City Manager Grant Goings said the legislation "would be devastating" to the city's $30 million effort to wire the city for high-speed Internet, cable and phone service by January. Local officials said they were 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.

The bill, pending in the House Finance Committee, has attracted the attention of Google and other technology companies, which recently sent letters to the General Assembly in opposition to the legislation. Google described itself as a strong supporter of public-private partnerships and said the bill "threatens to undermine prosperity."

"The other side of this issue has tried to phrase this as a public versus private sector issue, so certainly the support from these private companies helps clear the air that that is not the case," Goings said.

Fraser said he doesn't mind Google or other companies weighing in on the issue. But he said that doesn't change the debate.

"Every voice ought to be heard, but I think in the end, the reasons and the need for the legislation will be understood by the General Assembly," he said.


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  • Network dude Jun 22, 2007

    However it can be possible, it needs to be done. Fiber optic cable will not be obsolete any time in the next 40 years. We havent' found a way to max out the capaicty of fiber cable. With a strong infrastructure, the future of communication is safe. Some amazing things are coming. Being rural shouldn't ba a punishment. Everyone needs the ability to connect.

  • ohmygosh Jun 22, 2007

    I believe either Wilson or Rocky Mount provide their own electricity. Why is internet any different? For that matter, what if it were water or sewer? Should only private outside monopolies be allowed to provide that too?

    Those city folk who point to past "failures" of a cities to provide internet in an affordable form don't get it. City folk have competition and available private providers. T'aint so in the sticks. Internet is essential for any kind of growth of small town business. Yeah it's a gamble. Sure is a better gamble than building Taj Mahal Courthouses and Municipal buildings.

  • smitty Jun 21, 2007

    They tried to do this in Cary, the cost turned out to be astronomical and nobody wanted to pay for it. Socialized internet? No thanks. By the time the city could build out, the technology will be obsolete.

  • Pressed Into Action Jun 21, 2007

    Wow, competing private service providers co-authoring a bill that restricts how a local government can deliver communications AND taxes them if they somehow can save the community money in doing so. There's leveling the playing field and then there's the telecom industry's idea of going for broke! Think about that next Time Warner raises your rates for cable.

  • egwralcom Jun 21, 2007

    The cities should build and own the infrastructure (the wires/fiber) and provide basic connectivity for residents. Commercial interests can also be connected for a set rate. Anyone should be able to provide services over it such as email, data storage, hosting, voice services, PSTN connectivity, video, TV, etc. Any basic services that are not provided locally can be offered by the city as upgrades to the basic service. That's the only thing that makes sense.

  • Wheelman Jun 21, 2007

    If the city asks for the service and the current provider either can't or won't provide it in a reasonable time frame, then the city should have the freedom to provide it if the taxpayers want it. It's no different than a city providing other services that it's citizens want.