First, the good news: Senator David Hoyle (D-Gaston) announced today that he’s backing away from his earlier idea of a moratorium on NC municipal broadband. Senator Hoyle is the same lawmaker who said a few weeks ago that wireless could replace fiber optics.
Now, the bad: His proposed draft would have the same effect. He offered a bill this morning that calls for additional regulations on any NC city or county that wants to build a next-generation broadband network. Local communities would be required to hold an election before building or even repairing a broadband system. Currently, interested cities or counties have to present a business model to the NC Local Government Commission and get its blessing. Wilson got approval from the LGC in 2007 before expanding the Greenlight network. The new bill would go beyond the LGC’s input.
Sen. Hoyle prefaced his remarks by saying he is against the concept of municipal broadband, because it pits ‘the government’ against the private sector; which is already providing the same service. Keep in mind a couple of things: more private sector companies support municipal broadband than are against it. Google, Intel and Alcatel-Lucent recently wrote a letter supporting local cities and counties. Second, in Wilson’s case, the fiber optic network provides a much higher level of service because the cable company’s network is outdated. Also, the cable company refused to build a better network in Wilson. We asked. They said no.
As lawmaker Josh Stein (D-Wake) pointed out, the cable company controls the TV advertising world. Such an election would give the cable company ample chance to muddy the waters. It’s happened in several places.
I don’t have a copy of the draft yet because he presented it as he began to talk. In other words, no one in the audience saw it before the vote.
The Revenue Laws committee voted to send it to another committee; possibly finance. In other words, they believe it should go to the next step.
The bill will be assigned a number and a name sometime next week. More as we get closer.