NC towns, telecoms battle to offer Internet service

Posted March 17, 2011

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— A revamped version of a long-running battle between telecommunications companies and North Carolina cities that have started their own broadband Internet offerings returned to the General Assembly on Thursday.

The House Finance Committee debated a bill that would create new requirements for cities and towns to build their own broadband networks. House Bill 129 calls for all municipal telecom providers to follow the same local, state and federal regulations as private companies and to pay an amount equal to the taxes that a private telecom provide would pay.

Existing municipal networks, such as one Wilson spent $28 million on four years ago, would be exempt from parts of the bill. The requirements also wouldn't apply to communities where at least half of residents don't have access to private broadband services.

"Our intent was never to harm the cities that are currently in the business," said Rep. Marilyn Avila, R-Wake, who sponsored the bill.

In addition to Wilson, Salisbury, Laurinburg, Morganton, Davidson and Mooresville run their own local telecommunications networks.

"They've committed their citizens to some terrific debt for these services," Avila said.

Telecom providers and some municipalities have argued annually in recent years over who has the right to sell high-speed Internet service. Cable and phone companies argue municipalities have financial advantages that they can't compete with, while cities say telecom companies aren't extending super-fast Internet at reasonable prices, putting rural areas behind in the wired world of commerce.

Broadband cable, Internet service NC towns, telecoms battle to offer Internet service

"What this is is Time Warner Cable's efforts to cut out municipalities as a potential competitor, and it is a monopolistic bill from the word go," said Rep. Bill Faison, D-Caswell. "We still have people who are largely under-served throughout many areas in our state."

Time Warner Cable officials denied allegations that the company was trying to squelch competition.

"The bill is intended to create a level playing field so, If local governments want to provide commercial retail services in direct competition with private business, they can't use their considerable advantages unfairly," the company said in a statement.

Wilson has about 5,600 customers for its broadband service, and an outside consultant estimates that both city and Time Warner Cable customers have saved more than $1 million because of the competition.

The Finance Committee didn't give final approval to the bill, which still faces debate in the full House and Senate if it makes it out of committee.


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  • katzpauz Mar 21, 2011

    No, they didn't bypass "my city," I get my power from PE....but let's go ask Pikeville, Fremont, La Grange, Farmville, etc....where the towns buy the power from PE and then jack the price up and sell it to their poor citizens....then, when some don't pay, jack the rate on those that do to pay for those that "won't." NO THANKS!

  • driverkid3 Mar 17, 2011

    What these companies (TW & ATT) charge for poor service is absolutely ridiculous. They are greedy and arrogant. Someone needs to come in and provide decent service at a reasonable cost.

    I am lucky in one way that by building provides internet for us, but cable is WAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYY out of reach for a lot of us here, we make do with the rabbit ear thing. However our internet is 54.0mps

  • The Contractor Mar 17, 2011

    yea for toadying representatives.. of the people, by the people, for the corporations!

    ive been forced to use time warner and their monopoly for 10+ years and the price has never dropped, only increased, yet i still have the same service i had 10 years ago... you would think cost would go down over time for things but nope, not when greed is the main driving force. and now they are greedy in wanting to make everyone play on a level playing field? isn't that socialism? why do i have to pay extra for no reason if i live in one town than if i live in another.. your forcing me to pay for product A more than the product is worth because someone else sells product B for higher? lack of common sense...

  • bossbarnes07 Mar 17, 2011

    I'm an IT Analyst in Raleigh and I live in Wilson, I get 10.35mbps up and 10.59Mbps down. I have digital tv and phone all for for $140. TW raised ther rate in other counties but they lower their rate in Wilson. I lived in Cary for 15 years during the rate hikes. Other talked about but Wilson did it and did it right. Only if they could get the electricity right.

  • glatta Mar 17, 2011

    Where we would be had there not been the initial coops of electricity. As children can't pick where we are raised or educated.

  • Not_So_Dumb Mar 17, 2011

    "This is nothing but a corporate welfare bill, locking up the market for the telecom monopolies."-MT.Net

    Crony capitalism at its finest!

  • Tizu Mar 17, 2011

    I think he means 5Gig per month....that SUCKS. 5GB of data per month is dismal at best for even those who do nothing more than make status updates on Facebook all day.

  • babbleon Mar 17, 2011

    Justin: $70 for 5Gig sounds pretty good to those of us stuck in Raleigh with RR.

    Cities have been able to provide BETTER service for less cost (even if you add in the fees), and end up making money for the city, not costing it.

    This bill is a transparent attempt to extend the monopoly of the internet providers, at the expense of the public. Call your representative (or one of the sponsors listed below) today and tell them you don't want this bill.

    HB 129
    Blust; Boles; Brisson; L. Brown; Burr; Cleveland; Collins; Current; Dollar; Faircloth; Floyd; Frye; Gillespie; Graham; Hager; Hill; Hurley; Ingle; Johnson; Jones; Justice; Killian; Langdon; LaRoque; Lucas; McComas; McElraft; McGee; McGrady; Michaux; Moffitt; R. Moore; T. Moore; Pierce; Pridgen; Samuelson; Spear; Starnes; Stevens; West; Wray;

  • Justin T. Mar 17, 2011

    "Wilson got $28 million in financing in 2007 to offer broadband Internet, phone and cable TV service to homes and businesses inside the city limits."

    --Laughable. My family and friends in Wilson have to pay $70+ per month for 5 gigs of slow 1G wireless broadband service. Typical misrepresentation of taxpayers.

  • ncspamfish Mar 17, 2011

    government........trying to be all things to all people. clearly they have lost focus. and who pays in the end.......citizens/voters/taxpayers.

    bad idea!!!