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Broadband bill passes House

Posted March 28, 2011

NC House lawmakers have given final approval to a measure that would make it much more difficult for municipalities to set up their own broadband service – even when telecom companies refuse to serve them.

H129, the “Level Playing Field” bill, is backed by Time-Warner, CenturyLink, and other telecoms who say cities have unfair advantages in competing with commercial interests.

Bill sponsor Marilyn Avila, R-Wake, says businesses need protection from “predatory” local governments. “We have to have some sort of framework that everybody understands when you go into this. This bill is going to establish those rules.”

The measure would not apply to systems currently operating in Salisbury, Wilson, Mooresville/Iredell, and Morganton. But it would restrict cities who might consider offering similar services.

“It is not anti-competition,” Avila said. “The cities can enter into it [broadband service]. It is not going to be easy, though. It’s going to be tough.”

Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange, said “tough” doesn’t cover it. “This bill will make it practically impossible” for cities to provide a “fundamental service,” he said.

“Where’s the bill to govern Time Warner?” Faison asked. “Let’s be clear about whose bill this is. This is Time Warner’s bill. You need to know who you’re doing this for.”

The bill would require municipal broadband services to make a profit on their systems, as a business would have to do. But Democrats say it’s not an appropriate comparison. “Many times we talk in this chamber about the importance of local control. We are, in this bill, taking away local control,” said Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham.

Critics say the measure will cost the state jobs, especially in rural communities trying to build or recruit 21st-century businesses. “They’re making it out to be a bunch of folks in sweatpants that want to download Netflix faster,” said Jay Ovittore with SEATOA, a public network advocacy group. “That’s not the case at all. The reality is that this is about job growth and economic development, and they’re failing to catch that point. It’s a crucial infrastructure.”

“It’s a bad bill, it’s a bad bill, it’s a bad bill,” repeated Ovittore. “And we fully intend to make this an election issue.”

The measure passed the House 81-37. It now moves to the Senate.

10 Comments

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  • tmh1375 Apr 4, 11:24 a.m.

    Government once again working for their corporate friends. Do any of you politicians work for "the people" anymore?

  • JNealNC Apr 2, 10:48 a.m.

    Local providers ensure healthy competition- free market opportunities as trumpeted by many. Moreover they reach pockets of rural underserved areas which the Time-Warners ignore. The Wilson County service had been a great success. Why on earth would anyone wish to undermine the advancement of the expansion of the information highway critical to improving the delivery of educational services?

    It's all about money. The cable companies fill the coffers of legislators. The public gets the shaft. Is that now the new American way/

  • ceveret3 Mar 30, 9:05 p.m.

    Dear Sentors,

    Please do whatever you can to strike down this bill. If passed there will be no completion to big cable and phone companies in my area of the state. Currently in Fayetteville NC for high speed internet their are only two choices, Time Warner Cable and Centrylink and they both offer a maximum speed of 10 megbit/s and both cost about the same. It is even worst where my grandmother lives where Centrylink is the only choice in Trenton NC. The passing of this bill will hinder innovation and competition the broadband internet space. If Time Warner wants to compete with a local municipal broadband tell them to just be better! Built out their network and lower prices. Not try to pass laws that make competion illegeal. Time Warner Cable keeps loosing cable customers and keeps make profits from internet subcribers.

    Please don't let Time Warner Cable make completion illegal. I hope to see the day I can get 100 megbit/s speed in my area and have more choice then the duopoly

  • wrs Mar 30, 4:19 p.m.

    This is such a blatant sell out that there should be someway to bring those people who voted for this bill on fraud charges. To pretend that this is in the best interest of the citizens and economic development shows a complete lack of understanding. I provide glowing words for the service that TWC provides to me. I continue to blame the legislators for wasting time on bills that do not focus on the most important issues we face. This is nothing but a payoff to special interests groups. I understand where the moisture on my leg orginated.

  • dougdeep Mar 30, 4:17 p.m.

    What does this bill do for every day consumers? Nothing. You can't argue that keeping the status quo will spur sudden innovation.

  • TheGoldenBoyNC Mar 30, 2:54 p.m.

    I'm sure it's a coincidence that Rep. Avila received $500 from TWC's PAC on 10/12/2010. Right?

    Source: http://www.app.sboe.state.nc.us/webapps/cf_rpt_search/cf_report_detail.aspx?RID=108408&TP=REC

  • logicalthinking Mar 30, 1:47 p.m.

    Well, we have made it to the famous engadget.com.

    http://www.engadget.com/2011/03/30/big-cable-backed-broadband-bill-soars-through-nc-house-one-step/

  • illegals--GO HOME Mar 30, 12:46 p.m.

    I have to totally agree with dshows.......TWC and others want to control this totally!!!

  • dshows Mar 28, 10:51 p.m.

    Please stop INCORRECTLY reporting that current municipalities offering broadband services are exempt from this bill. Three separate times legislators (in committee and on the floor) have voted to exempt existing municipal providers, and THREE times Time Warner Cable has actually been allowed to "draft" the amendment and was able to craft and insert language that was not in the motion, and had the net effect of nullifying any alleged exemption. But where was the indepth analysis covering this from WRAL? Perhaps cashing Time Warner Cable's advertising checks? How can WRAL legitamely cover TWC's outright purchase of legislation when TWC is a major advertiser, and thus a significant revenue source? The answer is that WRAL is just as culpable as the corrupt politicians they purport to "cover".

    Please wake up and provide some sort of arguably legitimate reporting of our state government. If not, just stop.

  • punzelda Mar 28, 9:27 p.m.

    Republican majority, so we can't have anything that would save American workers out-of-pocket money. Big business and the rich have to have ALL the money for Republicans to be happy.