FCC Commissioner: Local governments should not be restricted from building their own networks

FCC Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn spoke to SEATOA earlier this week, and she mentioned municipal broadband as an important part of a connected United States.

Much thanks to Catharine Rice for providing the excerpts below:

Excerpt from Speech by FCC Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn
SEATOA’s 9th Annual Conference
Asheville, NC – April 27, 2010

The theme of this conference “Expanding Community Networks,” is exactly what the National Broadband Plan is about – to ensure that broadband is made available to all Americans, no matter where they live….

….In addition to recommendations about improving providers’ access to infrastructure for building broadband, the Plan also acknowledges that in some jurisdictions, no provider is constructing a broadband network. Thus, the Plan recommends that Congress clarify that State and local governments should not be restricted from building their own broadband networks. I firmly believe that we need to leverage every resource at our disposal to deploy broadband to all Americans. If local officials have decided that a publicly-owned broadband network is the best way to meet their citizens’ needs, then my view is to help make that happen.

One example of a town that took control of its own digital destiny – Bristol, Virginia saw additional jobs created in that area. And last month I heard Lafayette, Louisiana’s City-Parish President, describe the development of economic opportunities in his city, that were a direct result of the fiber network built by the community.

Right here in North Carolina, I understand that Wilson and Salisbury are trying to invest in fiber optic systems, that they hope will transform their local economies. When cities and local governments are prohibited from investing directly in their own broadband networks, citizens may be denied the opportunity to connect with their nation and improve their lives. As a result, local economies likely will suffer. But broadband is not simply about dollars and cents, it is about the educational, health, and social welfare of our communities. Preventing governments from investing in broadband, is counter –productive, and may impede the nation from accomplishing the Plan’s goal of providing broadband access to every American and every community anchor institution……

No matter how much they repeat it, the cable giants don’t want a level playing field

The Salibury Post did a really insightful editorial recently on the latest anti-municipal broadband bill to enter our State’s legislative chambers. The City of Salisbury is building a fiber to the home network that is very similar to the FTTH network we have in Wilson. The draft Sen. David Hoyle (D-Gaston) plans to introduce May 5th is the fourth attempt to protect the cable monopolies. The cable company is 0 for 3, but they’re a persistent lot.

Here’s a segment of the editorial.

“In pushing the House bill, industry advocates have spoken of the need to “level the playing field.” But it’s debatable who faces the bigger hills here — cable companies worried about losing customers through competitive disadvantage, or municipalities trying to keep pace with 21st century communication technologies. City governments can rightfully argue they want a level playing field, too, when it comes to attracting new businesses and providing necessary services to citizens.”

If the cable giants were providing world class service, municipal broadband wouldn’t be necessary.

Moratorium against new community broadband to be pushed May 5th

Sen. David Hoyle of Gaston County said Wednesday that he’d like to see a moratorium on new community broadband in NC. He’ll bring it up again at a committee meeting on May 5th. Senator Daniel Clodfelter mentioned that several other legislators felt the issue was important enough to warrant attention.

Here’s a great article Jay Ovittore wrote for Stop the Cap! that includes the play by play.

NC’s Broadband Fight Continues Tomorrow (Apr. 21)

Wilson’s municipal broadband operation is right on target. In spite of the difficult economy of the past two years, sign-ups are great. People are excited about Greenlight, and they’re showing their support by signing up.

The biggest obstacle, as I see it, is the constant stream of legislative attempts to limit cities and towns from offering this service. On Wednesday, April 21, Senator Daniel Clodfelter is expected to introduce a moratorium on municipal broadband in NC.

If he introduces a bill, or some other measure as expected, this will be the fourth attempt to stop municipal broadband in NC.

Here’s a little timeline of the cable company’s ever-changing reasons for the law:

2007: Cities and towns can’t possibly run a network like this. The taxpayers need protection from poor investments.
2009: Cities and towns have an unfair advantage. Cable companies need protection from these advantages.
2010: (as reported) Cities and towns aren’t paying enough tax money to the State. The State needs protection for its finances.

MediaPost News is running a great story today about NC’s broadband fight. I encourage you to read the story to find out more about this issue. The spokesperson for one of the companies was quoted as saying that, “By no means are we against the competition. We’re just saying that all competition should be on a level playing field.”

Interesting choice of words. They want competition to be on a level playing field. That’s the nickname of the monopoly protection bill from 2009. It’s almost as if they had a hand in crafting the bill, but that couldn’t be. Right?

If you can make it, we’d love to see you on Wednesday, April 21st at 9:30am in room 544 of the Legislative Office Building.

Monopoly protection bill comes up again this Wednesday (Apr. 21)

Just when you think the anti-municipal broadband bills have finally faded away, another one comes along. Long story short, the bills (which have been reconstituted several times since they were born in 2007) sandbag cities and towns in NC and effectively kill any future municipal broadband deployment. They were created in partnership with the cable company and their effect is to protect the company’s monopolies. You want cable? One place to get it. Don’t want dial-up or DSL? You have one choice.

For the full story, check out this post from Jay Ovittore from our friends at Stop the Cap!

Here’s a segment:

North Carolina’s incumbent cable and phone companies are once again trying to ram through an anti-municipal broadband bill, and their timing is designed to rush it through committee before a groundswell of consumer opposition has a chance to build.  Time is short — the bill will be taken up April 21st in the Revenue Laws Study Committee, so your immediate action is imperative!

This year’s push for anti-consumer legislation comes courtesy of Senator Daniel G. Clodfelter (D-Mecklenburg County).

He reportedly wants a moratorium on all municipal broadband deployments on the alleged basis that these are bad for the private sector and will harm state tax revenue.  Hello?  Virtually every municipal broadband project underway fuels job creation as crews work to install the fiber optic networks that will come to represent an economic catalyst and job creator.  When communities no longer have to turn away digital economy jobs lost because of inadequate broadband by existing providers, that’s an economic victory for hard-pressed North Carolina, where unemployment is at 11.2 percent these days — 10th worst in the country.

If you’re available Wednesday morning at 9:30, we’ll be in the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh, Room 544.

Great Facebook fan page available for community broadband

Communities United for Broadband

Communities United for Broadband

As countless cities and towns wait to see who will get the Google fiber gift, more communities are realizing that they may need to pursue fiber on their own.

Wilson asked the private service providers to build a fiber network and they said no, so we built it ourselves. Today, we have 100M synchronous connections available to homes and 1G connections available to business and industry.

Some folks who obviously know a lot about municipal broadband have created a great Facebook presence where you can learn more about this potential option. As great as the Google Fiber Initiative is, no one expects more than one or two cities to land a fiber network because of it. Wilson’s community-owned fiber network, Greenlight, is working better than expected two years in. It may also be a good choice for your community.

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