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.

Lawmaker: We should promote other models, including the municipal

The Associated Press covered the NC broadband debate this weekend, and the News and Observer picked it up.

It mentioned that another committee is already studying this topic and quoted the chair of it: “Leaving this solely to the telecoms and the cable companies has not gotten us the best result we could get, and we should promote other models, including the municipal model,” said Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange, who is leading a separate House committee examining the topic.

Wilson and Salisbury have invested millions into fiber to the home networks.  A number and name of this draft bill should be posted later in the week.

Editorial: Moratorium protects cable monopoly at communities’ expense

This Wednesday, May 5th, Senator David Hoyle (D-Gaston) will propose a moratorium on municipal broadband in NC. The Salisbury Post recently published this editorial about it. The moratorium, to be presented in the NC Revenue Laws Committee goes hand in hand with the cable company’s repeated attempts to change the law to protect its monopoly. Salisbury is building a fiber to the home network called ‘Fibrant’ that will be similar to Wilson’s Greenlight fiber network. Salisbury’s network will go live this summer. -BB

Cable wars in Raleigh
Published Monday, April 26, 2010 11:00 PM
Salisbury Post

Salisbury city officials say they’ve been assured that whatever happens to House Bill 1252, it won’t short-circuit the city’s fiber-optic cable to the home network. But there’s a good reason they, other municipal officials and local businesses are rallying opposition to the bill.

They know its passage would severely inhibit the spread of high-speed cable to many areas of the state, leaving Salisbury and a few other pioneering municipalities in a position similar to the lone wagon surrounded by an angry war party. Clearly, the cable industry wants to mount a pre-emptive attack on the municipal broadband movement in its infancy. It would be naive to think the bill wouldn’t seriously affect the long-term viability of the Fibrant system and others that have started up or are on the drawing board.

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. Broadband is comparable to a 21st century version of rural electrification or the interstate highway system. That’s why the federal government set aside $4.7 billion in stimulus grants specifically designated to help local governments like Salisbury provide broadband to unserved and underserved areas.

Yet, if the HB 1252′s intent becomes reality, such areas will be severely hobbled in their near-term ability to tap into the broadband revolution. Private telecommunications companies — in this case, primarily Time-Warner — will determine where services will go and when they will go there. Such decisions will be driven by short-term profits, not a long-range vision of community progress. That’s like letting one or two asphalt companies determine the future of North Carolina’s roads.

At this point, the fate of House Bill 1252 has yet to be determined. Last week, the Revenue Laws Committee heard the pleas of municipal officials, local businesses and others who support municipal broadband, as well as the arguments of cable companies who believe the municipal ventures enjoy an unfair advantage. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t be having this debate. The city of Salisbury wouldn’t need to enter the fiber-optic business because multiple cable companies would be fighting tooth and nail to provide that service. Instead, cable companies are fighting to preserve the near monopoly they’ve enjoyed in many communities. Rather than leveling the field, HB 1252 looks more like an attempt to bulldoze away consumer options.

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