S1209 in Finance Committee Tuesday, plus a surprise from Rep. Faison

Rep. Bill Faison

Rep. Bill Faison

Been a busy couple of days on the issue of next-generation broadband in our state.

First, unless they change the date again, Senate Bill 1209 should come up in the Senate Finance Committee this Tuesday, June 1st, at 1pm in the Legislative office building; room 544.

Yes, it’s scheduled for the first day back after a three-day weekend. :)

Now stick with me, here. This gets a little complicated, but it’s good news.

Rep. Bill Faison (D-Caswell, Orange) has introduced a second bill, House Bill 2067,  that would specifically allow Caswell County to build its own broadband network.

Mr. Faison’s bill lists broadband as a public utility, and that’s important. Some lawmakers, including the cable and telecom companies, have portrayed broadband as a luxury. The Independent Weekly of Durham covered the story.

More as this develops. I hope to see you Tuesday.

Study: U.S. now 26th in global broadband speed

The newest information from Ookla shows that the US is still losing ground in the global move to faster broadband speeds.

Here’s how the US, who invented the Internet, fares against the top five countries:

1. South Korea – 34.14 Mbps (megabits per second)
2. Latvia – 24.29 Mbps
3. Moldova – 21.37 Mbps
4. Japan – 20.29 Mbps
5. Sweden – 19.87 Mpbs
—-
26. United States of America – 10.16 Mbps

Part of the reason US speeds haven’t kept up is the lack of improvements to the aging copper systems. Remember the old cable lines that were strung in front of your house 30 years ago? They were made to carry analog TV signals, but today there’s a decent chance that they’re carrying the Web to you.

The City of Wilson built its Greenlight network as a fiber to the home system. It’s faster and much more reliable than the old stuff.

Instead of concentrating on updating their own systems, the cable and telecom giants are paying lobbyists to push bills like S1209 that would stop NC cities from building better networks.

Thanks to everyone, including private corporations such as Google and Intel, who has contacted lawmakers to explain the short-sighted effects of this bill.

Monopoly-protection bill meets NC Finance Committee today at 1pm

**Update** The bill was pulled from today’s meeting, apparently to study the issue some more. Thanks to all of you who contacted your lawmakers. I’ll let you know more as it happens.

The Senate Finance committee takes up S1209 today at 1pm in room 544 of the Legislative Office Building downtown.

A couple of quick things. First, we hope you can make it to speak. If not, I encourage you to listen to it on the legislative audio feed.

Finally, if you tweet about the topic today, please use the hashtag #ncbb. We need all of you involved in this. NC is walking the opposite direction while our nation looks to improve its broadband access.

Private industry says latest monopoly-protection bill is bad for economy, NC

Google, Alcatel-Lucent, Intel and other industry representatives are asking NC lawmakers not to pass new restrictions on municipal broadband and to abandon Senate Bill 1209. They understand that city or county owned broadband is a good thing for business, not a bad thing as suggested by some of the cable and telecom giants.

The full text of their letter is below. Here’s a segment:

“We support strong, fair and open competition to ensure users can enjoy the widest range of choice and opportunities to access content online, which is the heart of economic development in an information-based global market. SB 1209 is a step in the wrong direction. North Carolina should be lowering barriers to public broadband initiatives rather than establishing new ones, so that we and other high technology companies can spread and prosper across this beautiful state”

I appreciate their willingness to take a stand on this issue.

May 21, 2010
Senator Dan Clodfelter
Chair, Senate Finance Committee
300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 408
Raleigh, NC 27603-5925

Dear Senator Clodfelter:

We, the undersigned private-sector companies and trade associations, urge you to oppose SB 1209 or any other measure that would impose significant barriers to public broadband initiatives in North Carolina. Measures such as SB 1209 would harm both the public and private sectors. It would thwart public broadband initiatives, stifle economic growth, prevent the creation or retention of thousands of jobs, and diminish quality of life in North Carolina. In particular, it would hurt the private sector in several ways: by undermining public-private partnerships; by hamstringing the private sector’s ability to sell goods and services in North Carolina; by interfering with workforce development; and by stifling creativity and innovation.

The United States continues to suffer through one of the most serious economic crises in decades. To address these concerns, Congress and the Obama Administration have made more than $7 billion available to catalyze both public and private efforts to accelerate the deployment, adoption and use of broadband infrastructure and services. The Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan also admonishes states not to interfere with community broadband efforts where local officials do not believe that the private sector is acting fast enough or well enough to meet the community’s broadband needs. Consistent with these expressions of national policy, public entities across America, including North Carolina, are doing their share to bring affordable high-capacity broadband connectivity to all Americans. Enactment of direct or effective barriers to municipal broadband would not only be counterproductive, hurting both the public and private sectors, but it would also put North Carolina conspicuously at odds with national broadband policy.

We support strong, fair and open competition to ensure users can enjoy the widest range of choice and opportunities to access content online, which is the heart of economic development in an information-based global market. SB 1209 is a step in the wrong direction. North Carolina should be lowering barriers to public broadband initiatives rather than establishing new ones, so that we and other high technology companies can spread and prosper across this beautiful state. Please oppose SB 1209 and other measures that would significantly impair municipal broadband deployments or public-private partnerships in North Carolina.

Sincerely,

Alcatel-Lucent, American Public Power Association, Atlantic-Engineering, the Fiber to the Home Council, Google, Intel, Telecommunications Industry Association, and Utilities Telecom Council.
cc: Governor Beverly Perdue
Secretary of Commerce J. Keith Crisco
Rep. Hugh Holliman
Rep Joe Hackney
Senator Marc Basnight
Senate Finance Committee

Winston Salem Journal: Telecoms can’t expect people to keep waiting

The Winston Salem Journal did an excellent job covering the municipal broadband issue this week. The writers understood that the people of NC shouldn’t have to wait around for cable and telecom companies to improve their systems.

US broadband speeds simply haven’t kept up with many countries because the copper cable and telephone wires are slower than fiber optic networks. Some cities and towns, such as Wilson, have built fiber optic networks but the industry giants want to stop them. Wilson Greenlight speeds are many times faster than anything else you can buy here.

Here are a couple of segments from the editorial about senate bill 1209:

If the General Assembly were to give the telecoms what they want, they would be setting a higher standard for Internet borrowing than exists for most other government borrowing. And legislators would look hypocritical in passing such legislation because they’ve been borrowing without bond referenda for many years.

The issue here is that North Carolina’s small towns and rural areas need fast Internet service so they can attract business. With high-speed Internet, people can work from home, too, thus increasing the likelihood that small Internet-based businesses can take advantage of lower costs in rural areas. Also many people currently work from home. They can move to rural areas and stay employed by urban companies if they have a high-speed Internet connection.

Senate bill 1209 is expected in one of the committees next week. More on that as we know more.

WBTV Charlotte nails it with fiber optics story

WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte did a really effective job this week explaining why fiber optics is better than the old fashioned cable lines. They covered our friends in Salisbury, NC, just a few hours from here, who are planning to launch their own fiber optic network later this summer. They will join Wilson as the only cities in NC with fiber to every address in town.

I love the opening line: “In the old days if you wanted to attract business to your town you built a railroad.  Later, you added highways, and phone lines.” Today, we believe next-generation broadband is just as important.

In Wilson, the tobacco market helped build our city in the 20th century. While tobacco is still grown in areas outside the city, the tobacco warehouses that fueled our growth have shut down for good. We need our Greenlight broadband network for the next century. Communication is a critical element of the information and creativity economies.

The FCC has explained that municipal broadband is just one way the US can improve its broadband infrastructure.  Senator Hoyle’s bill, S1209, sends NC in the opposite direction with additional burdens that will keep NC cities on the sidelines.

This year’s anti-muni bill = S1209

We have a number for this year’s broadband bill in the NC Senate. Senator David Hoyle has officially introduced S1209.  Unlike the earlier three bills that were introduced in 2007 and 2009, this one is short and includes just a few major points.

The writer(s) of the draft have dropped the “Level Playing Field” title from the other bills and gone with “No Nonvoted Local Debt For Competing System” instead for this year’s try. This is the fourth attempt to prevent cities and towns in NC from building next-generation broadband networks.

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