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Perdue, fans, foes on broadband bill decision

Posted May 20, 2011 10:05 p.m. EDT
Updated May 20, 2011 10:19 p.m. EDT

Gov. Bev Perdue announced today she would not veto H129, a measure making it more difficult for local governments to offer municipal broadband service to their residents.

But, she stressed, she didn't like the bill: "I’m very unhappy with the concept."

After an appearance at Lenovo today, Perdue talked about her decision to allow H129 to become law without her signature.

"You can’t compete with government. That’s what the Umstead Act is about," she said, referring to a state law that bans government from competing with the private sector. "But I happen to be from a part of the state that has a real need for higher-speed broadband access. I don’t believe you can expect businesses to grow in either the mountainous areas or the very rural northeast without having technology."

"So I have decided I’m not gonna sign the bill. I’m writing a strong signing statement about why I’m not doing that that I hope will force, pressure, coerce, encourage the private sector to do what they need to do in these rural areas."

"If the private sector’s not gonna do it, then we need to look at the law again," Perdue said.

It's worth noting that the measure passed the House and Senate by veto-proof margins (and then some), so a veto would almost certainly have been overturned, which would have been a politically unfavorable outcome for Perdue.  

Reactions:

Time Warner Cable, the bill's foremost advocate, sent out the following statement from regional VP Jack Stanley: "We are pleased with the Governor’s decision and her recognition of the need for rules and a level playing field when local governments choose to enter into direct competition with existing service providers. We will continue to do our part in making high quality affordable broadband available to North Carolina citizens.”

On the other side of the fight, H129 opponents promised political payback.  

"I appreciate the fact that the Governor does not like the bill, but the only folks putting today's technology in the ground in NC are the cities," said Jay Ovittore, lobbyist for SEATOA, a public telecom group. "We had hoped that the Governor would lead our state in the right direction with a veto of H129, but to politically sidestep a controversial bill just does not do that."

"As for the Democrats who supported this bill, you should be ashamed of yourselves for putting a for-profit company (Time Warner Cable) ahead of your constituents' needs," Ovittore said in his emailed statement. "Elections will hold them accountable, and you can be sure I will remind their constituents time and time again until election day."