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Breaking News: NC Anti-Community Broadband Bill Passes One Committee, On to the Next

Time Warner Cable’s custom-written bill banning community-owned broadband networks in North Carolina this afternoon received a favorable vote in the Public Utilities Committee — the first to consider the bill.

Rep. Marilyn Avila (R-Time Warner Cable) decided that openly distorting the record of success community broadband has had would be a good way to proceed.  In comments before a jam-packed room this afternoon, Avila claimed fiber optic broadband systems have a long history of “failures,” which is ironic considering her promise to exempt these so-called failures from her bill’s anti-competitive regulatory regime.

Honestly, it was the first time we can recall a sitting legislator openly trashing her own state’s advanced broadband network successes.  (You can’t fault her for going all out for her friends at Time Warner Cable, but you can hold her accountable at the next election.)

Avila would never and could never admit the truth after wading this far in: these state of the art fiber networks are successful enough to have waiting lists from time to time just to get service installed.  Even those who don’t subscribe are benefiting. Just look at GreenLight, operated by the community of Wilson.  While GreenLight subscribers benefit from broadband far superior to what the cable company offers, those staying with Time Warner have seen an end to relentless annual rate increases.  Apparently Ms. Avila wants you to pay higher cable bills now and forever.

Republicans and Democrats from rural districts harshly criticized the proposed legislation for bringing no answers to the perennial problem of inadequate broadband in rural North Carolina communities, as well as the fact this bill contains customized exemptions to protect Time Warner and other Big Telecom companies from regulatory requirements dumped on community networks like a ton of bricks.

That’s favorable treatment for the cable company Ms. Avila seeks to protect at all costs.

Avila

Despite the important arguments raised by those objecting to the bill, the Committee Chair gaveled the debate to a sudden close, held a perfunctory voice vote and adjourned the session without a recorded vote.  That leaves citizens of the state with no idea how individual members voted.  Apparently they do not want to hear from unhappy constituents.

The Time Warner Cable Legislative Railroad next stops at the Finance Committee.

Although Rep. Julia Howard (R-Davie, Iredell), senior chair of that committee and Avila promise changes in the bill to protect existing community broadband operations, we are more than a little skeptical.

Last week, Avila called a meeting of city officials and several Big Telecom companies, including Time Warner and CenturyLink, partly to discuss exemption issues.  To give readers an idea of just how far Avila is in Time Warner’s corner, minutes into the meeting, she turned it over to the lobbyist from Time Warner Cable for the duration.

That’s a public-private partnership any voter in North Carolina should take a dim view about.  If Ms. Avila finds her work in the legislature too difficult to handle, perhaps she can find another line of work.  The only good thing about turning over your legislative responsibilities to the cable company is it cuts out the middleman.

Howard

The fact is, Time Warner has no interest in protecting -your- interests in North Carolina, much less those of the cutting edge fiber networks now up and running in the state.  They want them gone… or better yet, available for their acquisition at fire sale prices.  Yes, they even made sure of that in their bill, which guarantees a city can sell a fiber network hounded out of business to a Big Telecom company without a vote.

Exempting existing networks has turned out to be a highly subjective notion for Ms. Avila anyway.  She originally claimed to exempt them in her bill when it was introduced, but then subjected them to crushing regulation the cable companies do not face.  Any community contemplating starting a new network for their citizens can forget it either way.  Time Warner will not hear of it.

Although a growing number of Republicans and Democrats see Avila’s bill as a classic example of corporate overreach, without your voice demanding this bill be dropped, there still may be enough members of the state legislature willing to do the cable industry’s bidding.  If you make it clear that may cost them your support in the next election, they can be persuaded to do the right thing and vote NO.

But time is running out.  Your job is to begin melting down the phone lines of the Finance Committee members starting this afternoon.  Call and e-mail them and make it absolutely clear you expect them to vote NO on H129 and that you are closely watching this issue.  Ask each legislator for a commitment on how they plan to vote.

Finance Committee Members

Senior Chairman Rep. Howard
Chairman Rep. Folwell
Chairman Rep. Setzer
Chairman Rep. Starnes
Vice Chairman Rep. Lewis
Vice Chairman Rep. McComas
Vice Chairman Rep. Wainwright
Members Rep. K. Alexander, Rep. Brandon, Rep. Brawley, Rep. Carney, Rep. Collins, Rep. Cotham, Rep. Faison, Rep. Gibson, Rep. Hackney, Rep. Hall, Rep. Hill, Rep. Jordan, Rep. Luebke, Rep. McCormick, Rep. McGee, Rep. Moffitt, Rep. T. Moore, Rep. Rhyne, Rep. Ross, Rep. Samuelson, Rep. Stam, Rep. Stone, Rep. H. Warren, Rep. Weiss, Rep. Womble

 

Currently there are 3 comments on this Article:

  1. Henry Trujillo says:

    North Carolina Representatives,

    You are considering legislation which will affect not only your state but the rest of the nation.
    Don’t assume this only affects a tiny percentage of North Carolinian residents, it doesn’t. This Bill will have profound implications for the whole of the US broadband sector – and is completely at odds with the country’s National Broadband Plan.

    Please study and investigate this legislation carefully! The whole country is watching to see how you vote on this. Keep the flow of information open, uninhibited and constant, whether you’re a private citizen or corporation. Democracy depends on it! “He who controls the flow and speed of information, controls society”. Do not allow a few individuals or companies to control what, when, who, why things are allowed revealed or not!!

    Sincerely,

    Henry Trujillo
    Concerned U.S. Citizen

    • Bob Blessing says:

      I agree with the above poster Henry. It will affect everybody who is considering doing the same. Good grief, don’t listen to Time-Warner. Let the communities wire themselves if the big boy companies won’t do it. You should be glad the communities are taking the initiative. You cannot allow the cable or phone companies to dictate to you how things will be in your state.

      I am also a concerned citizen who does not live in your state but am pretty sure others are watching this to see how the vote goes.

      Thanks, Bob Blessing.

  2. Scott says:

    Reps. Howard, Carney, Wainwright are also co-sponsors. If you reside in their districts…let ’em have it!!!

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