RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina legislators are scheduled to decide whether to make it harder for municipalities to start broadband Internet services that compete with cable and telephone companies.
Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston, recently introduced legislation that would force municipalities to get voter approval before borrowing money to build a competing broadband network. That bill stalled in the state House.
“If they want to vote it down, go ahead, but give it a fair hearing,” Hoyle said Monday.
Hoyle's bill would place a one-year moratorium on municipalities creating their own cable and Internet networks.
Three years ago, Wilson borrowed more than $28 million to build a fiber-optic network to provide local residents with phone, Internet and cable services. Hoyle argues that municipalities, such as Wilson, shouldn't be competing with businesses.
“Do we, as government, want to get in competition with private enterprise and my answer to that is no, and I am passionate about that,” Hoyle said.
Hoyle has since attached his broadband bill to another bill he said is likely to get passed.
“I want my bill passed. They want their bill passed. So, if they want theirs, they're going to have to take up mine,” Hoyle said.
Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange, is among the lawmakers sponsoring the bill deemed likely to pass. It seeks $5 million in federal stimulus to help provide high-speed Internet access in parts of the state.
Faison said he doesn't support Hoyle's bill because it would cut down on competition and keep broadband rates up. But because the bills are attached, a vote for one means a vote for the other.
“I thought it was an interesting political maneuver. I did not think it was one that would be successful,” Faison said of Hoyle's effort to combine the bills.
A House committee recently discussed ways to reintroduce the bill seeking the federal stimulus money without Hoyle's broadband bill attached.
The bill as it stands could go to a vote on the House floor as early as Tuesday. It then would go back to the Senate.
Similar broadband bills have been debated in the General Assembly for several years.