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North Carolina Action Alert: Municipal Broadband Moratorium Bill Expected to Be Introduced Wednesday

North Carolina faces a moratorium on municipal broadband deployment.  On Wednesday, Senators David Hoyle and Daniel Clodfelter will introduce a bill expected to stall community broadband projects across the state.  The bill, which has yet to be seen by the public, should appear in the Revenue Laws Study Committee, co-chaired by Clodfelter.  We have heard the bill faces mere minutes of consideration before a quick vote, in hopes of moving it forward before the public finds out what elected officials are doing on their behalf.

Proponents of the moratorium argue that municipal broadband harms private industry and reduces tax revenue the state earns from those businesses.  But their argument lacks something — merit.  Missing from the debate are the actual numbers from the state’s largest telecommunications companies.  How much tax revenue does Time Warner Cable, AT&T and CenturyLink (formerly EMBARQ) generate?  We don’t know and the two senators (and the companies involved) aren’t saying.

Municipal broadband projects bring numerous benefits to North Carolina communities:

  • jobs (taxpayers);
  • high tech businesses moving into the state (taxpayers);
  • entrepreneurial innovation that creates new small businesses (taxpayers); and
  • benefits to the education and health care sectors (future taxpayers and keeping current taxpayers alive and healthy).

Make no mistake — a moratorium is just a stall tactic to protect current provider profits and avoid competition, all while giving them more time to organize a push for a permanent ban on such projects.

Why are Hoyle and Clodfelter only concerned with protecting incumbent telecom companies?  What about the rest of us?

Please join us tomorrow at the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh, and perhaps we can ask them.

Action Alert — We Need Your Attendance!

  • Where: Legislative Office Building, Raleigh
  • When: Wednesday May 5th at 9:30am, Room 544
  • Why: Just having consumers in the room make elected officials nervous, especially when they are about to introduce a bill the public has never seen five minutes before a vote to move it forward in the short legislative session starting May 12th.

GOOGLE AND SEVEN INDUSTRY GROUPS OPPOSE NC MUNICIPAL BROADBAND MORATORIUM

Raleigh, NC – May 4, 2010   Google, Intel and six other private sector groups announced strong opposition today to a North Carolina municipal broadband moratorium being considered by the General Assembly’s Revenue Laws Study Committee, calling it “a step in the wrong direction,” “counterproductive” and “conspicuously in opposition to national broadband policy.” Legislation to prohibit municipal broadband deployments in the state is expected to be introduced and voted on tomorrow May 5. At least 45 individual communities in North Carolina, including Raleigh, Cary, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Greensboro, Asheville and Wilmington, recently applied to partner with Google on its announced plans to build ultra-high speed fiber to the home systems.

In a strongly-worded letter to North Carolina’s House and Senate leadership, Google, Intel, Alcatel-Lucent, the Fiber to the Home Council (FTTC), American Public Power Association (APPA), Atlantic Engineering, Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), and the United Telecom Council (UTC) stated that such a bill 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; hamstringing the private sector’s ability to sell its goods and services; interfering with workforce development; and stifling creativity and innovation.”

“Enactment of a counterproductive municipal broadband moratorium would put North Carolina conspicuously in opposition to national broadband policy,” the letter states, and continues: “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 quickly enough to meet community broadband needs.  Consistent with these expressions of national policy, communities across America are doing their share to contribute to the rapid deployment of broadband to all Americans.”

Those words echo a similar statement by FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn just last week in Asheville, NC. Commissioner Clyburn equated such a moratorium to denying citizens “the opportunity to connect with their nation and improve their lives” and called such a move “counterproductive,” one which could ” impede the nation from accomplishing the [National Broadband] Plan’s goal of providing broadband access to every American and every community anchor institution.”

A bill supported by Time Warner Cable and AT&T, the municipal broadband moratorium is being pushed by Senators Hoyle (D-Gaston) and Clodfelter (D-Charlotte Mecklenburg) for the alleged purpose of protecting the private sector and associated state tax revenues. But opponents to the bill argue the bill would hurt the private sector and even these representatives’ local constituents. Such a moratorium would terminate the City of Charlotte’s recent plans to build a multi-million dollar municipal network to provide broadband service to its public safety, educational, government institutions and the unemployed through the use of federal ARRA broadband funds. The bill also has the potential to make both Gaston and Gaston County less attractive to Google with whom they submitted an application to partner for a fiber to the home network.

“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,” the letter states. At least 45 individual communities in North Carolina, including Raleigh, Cary, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Greensboro, Asheville and Wilmington, recently applied to be partners with Google on its announced plans to bring  fiber to the home to between 50,000 to 500,000 households in an effort to unleash advanced scientific, educational, medical and environmental applications through these ultra-high speed networks, now being deployed throughout the world and in China. North Carolina already has two municipalities, Wilson and Salisbury, deploying these fiber systems to their residents.

Jay Ovittore, co-Director at Communities United for Broadband says, “A moratorium or any other barriers to “real” next generation broadband deployment would be a leap in the wrong direction for North Carolina’s citizens and for North Carolina’s economy.”  Communities United for Broadband is a citizen run advocacy group that promotes the exchange of ideas between communities, both rural and urban, to find the best solutions for their broadband needs.  You can find Communities United for Broadband on Facebook at http://bit.ly/aW6skP and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CUFB

For more information:

www.broadband4everyonenc.com

http://groups.google.com/group/nc-public-broadband

http://stopthecap.com/2010/04/28/fcc-commissioner-mignon-clyburn-speaks-in-favor-of-municipal-broadband-projects-at-seatoa-conference/

http://www.muninetworks.org/

The Fiber to the Home Council also sent a separate letter to North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue.

You can continue to write the legislators who are pushing this industry written legislation.  Trust me they are hearing you. Be nice, but let them know you do not want a moratorium on muni-broadband, it will hurt economic development in our state and you want what the rest of the world enjoys for broadband access.

Don’t forget to thank those we have identified as on our side of the issue, for being forward thinking and truly representing the people:

Currently there are 4 comments on this Article:

  1. Tim says:

    “…City of Charlotte’s recent plans to build a multi-million dollar municipal network to provide broadband service to its public safety, educational, government institutions and the unemployed through the use of federal ARRA broadband funds.”

    This is the 1st I have heard of this. They need to think bigger though and just not make it strictly for those reasons. They need to make it available to its citizens like Wilson and make money off of it.

    Edit: On a side note, we are thinking of moving, because Charlotte doesn’t seem like it wants to be one of the leaders in technology. If we have to move to Salisbury then so be it. That and for other reasons, i.e. public school system is horrid here.

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