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.

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.

More coverage of Greenlight as Google mulls fiber location

Our small city has benefited from all the talk about Google’s fiber optic initiative. Wilson’s Greenlight was recently mentioned in the San Jose Mercury News in a column by Chris O’Brien as well as several other regional publications.

Two things:

First, one of the intial questions is always, “how many people have signed up?” As of last week, we had about 4,700 subscribers. A subscriber means a home, a business or some other property. That’s roughly 23.4% of Wilson. Why is that important? Our business model says Wilson will be cash flow positive if Greenlight reaches 30% penetration after three full years. It’s been less than two years since the first residential subscriber signed up and we’re most of the way there. I hope this does away with the notion that people are happy with 20th century bandwidth.

Second, I hope Google’s initiative also emphasizes that fiber optic technology will remain the gold standard for a long time. Can you imagine Google spending millions (or billions, depending on the size of the town) on outdated technology?

The cable company is doing everything it can to stop municipal broadband, but Wilson continues to operate one of the fastest all fiber optic networks in the nation.

Wilson lauded as good example in national story about rural broadband

If you find the ebb and flow of technology news a little hard to follow, you can find a great summary of tech news each month on the Business Week CEO Guide to Technology.

In the magazine’s most recent podcast, broadband expert Craig Settles mentioned Wilson’s Greenlight as a role model in the deployment of rural broadband.

I’ll let you listen for yourself, but to give you the Cliffs Notes version, Settles talks about the stimulus plan and its national efforts to make broadband available to under-served areas. He also mentions that broadband providers fight local governments or non profits tooth and nail when they want to fill in the gaps.

Video of the House Vote

Here’s a 29-minute unedited video of the vote to send HB 1252 to a study committee. We’re told the cable company is lobbying to hand-pick a more friendly committee instead.

Rural NC Family Recognizes Need for Better Internet Access

The Foushee family of the Roxboro area recently sat down with Internet For Everyone.org and explained why they need broadband. Roxboro is a small town just north of the Research Triangle Park area.

The farm family is a good example of how people in rural areas can be left behind in the digital age. HB 1252 and SB 1004 will ensure that the Foushee’s wait much longer for the market to provide better service.

More Coverage of Anti-Cities Broadband Bill

This article is from Platts Electric Power Daily – Copyright the McGraw Hill Companies

North Carolina munis challenge broadband bill
A collection of municipal utilities in North Carolina is
challenging state legislation that would make it nearly
impossible for such utilities to provide broadband services to
their customers, reviving a debate that took place two years ago
in the state.

The legislation, H.B. 1252, is set for a hearing (April 15) in the
House Committee on Science and Technology, but it would
have to pass through two other committees — Public Utilities
and Finance — in the House before passage and consideration
with identical legislation (S.B. 1004) in the state Senate, said
Catharine Rice, vice president at the Southeast Association of
Telecommunication Officers and Advisors.

The legislation is being pushed by cable and telecom
broadband providers, and among other restrictions it would
prohibit municipal utilities from using federal stimulus
funding for broadband deployment while subjecting
municipal utilities to regulations and funding requirements
not imposed on private companies, said Rice. With
unemployment around 12% in the state and broadband
deployment in rural areas lacking, “this is a seriously bad bill
for the future of North Carolina,” Rice said.

The legislation, sponsored by Representative Ty Herrell
and others, would saddle municipalities, even those that want
to partner with private firms, with onerous rules, including
reporting, auditing and accounting requirements that telecom
providers know would halt municipal broadband
deployments in their tracks, said Rice.

The restriction on using any of the $7 billion in broadband
funding that was part of the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act is particularly galling for municipalities in an
era when broadband availability is a vital link to economic
development, Rice said.

At the federal level, the American Public Power Association
is pushing legislation that would restrict states from imposing
restrictions on municipal utilities. The Community Broadband
Act has been introduced in the House and Senate in the past
several years and Representative Rick Boucher, Democrat from
Virginia and Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat from New
Jersey, intend to introduce the legislation again this year, said
Corry Marshall, government affairs representative for APPA.
APPA held an information session for municipalities looking
to use stimulus funding for broadband deployment and there
was great interest in the session among APPA members,
Marshall said.

Some 15 states already have some type of restriction on
municipalities providing broadband/communication services,
and “I hope that the barriers proposed in North Carolina
remind members of Congress of the need to pass the
Community Broadband Act,” said Jim Baller, a Washington
attorney who represents municipal utilities.

In North Carolina, “we can’t wait for Congress” and will
challenge the House and Senate measures, Rice said. A similar bill
was approved by one House committee two years ago but was
defeated in a second committee, she pointed out. — Tom Tiernan