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N.C.’s Fastest & Cheapest Broadband Comes from Community-Owned Networks Some Want to Ban

A new report proves what Stop the Cap! has advocated for more than two years now — communities seeking the fastest, most-modern, and most aggressively priced broadband can get all of that and more… if they do it themselves.

The concept of community self-reliance for broadband has been dismissed and derided for years among small government conservatives and corporately-backed dollar-a-holler groups who claim government can’t manage anything, but when it comes to broadband in the state of North Carolina, the evidence is in and it is irrefutable — Tar Heel state residents are getting the most bang for their broadband buck from well-managed and smartly-run community-owned broadband networks.

Christopher Mitchell from the New Rules Project — part of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, gathered evidence from North Carolina’s different broadband providers and found the best broadband services come from local communities who decided to build their own fiber networks. instead of relying on a handful of cable and phone companies who have kept the state lower in broadband rankings than it deserves.

North Carolina is undergoing a transition from a manufacturing and agricultural-based economy that used to employ hundreds of thousands of workers in textile, tobacco, and furniture manufacturing businesses.  In the last quarter-century, the state has lost one in five jobs to Asian outsourcing and America kicking the tobacco habit.  Its future depends on meeting the challenges of transitioning to a new digital economy, and major cities like Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro have risen as well-recognized leaders in engineering, biotech, and finance.

But for rural and suburban North Carolina, success has been hindered by a lack of necessary infrastructure — particularly broadband for small businesses and entrepreneurs.  It becomes impossible to attract high tech jobs to areas that are forced to rely entirely on low speed DSL service, if that is even available.

In communities like Wilson and Salisbury, long frustrated by area providers not delivering needed services, a decision was reached to build their own broadband infrastructure — modern fiber to the home networks worthy of the 21st century.

Mitchell’s report charts the benefits available to every resident, as communities with state-of-the-art fiber networks consistently deliver the most robust service at the lowest prices, all without risk to local taxpayers.  Better still, when the network construction costs are paid back to bondholders, future profits generated by the community-owned systems will be plowed back into local communities to reduce tax burdens and keep service state-of-the-art.

“Comparing the tiers of residential service from Wilson or Salisbury against the providers in the Raleigh area shows that the communities have invested in a network that offers far faster speeds for less money than any of the private providers,” Mitchell concludes.  “Whether communities in North Carolina are competing against other states or internationally for jobs and quality of life, they are smart to consider investing in a community fiber network.”

Mitchell’s report arrives just a few weeks after voters handed North Carolina’s General Assembly to GOP control for the first time in more than a century.  Both cable and phone companies in the state modestly suggest that is good news for their legislative agenda, which is an understatement equal in proportion to the historic handover of control of both the House (67-52) and the Senate (31-19).  The top items on the agenda of incoming members is a checklist of conservative activist favorites, including a war on unions, mandatory ID cards for voting, opting the state out of recently enacted health care reform, an eminent domain constitutional amendment, sweeping deregulation reform to favor business interests, and redistricting to “restore fairness” in future elections.

The state’s big cable and phone companies are convinced with a list like that, they can come along for the legislative ride and get their agenda passed as “pro-business reform.”  That means a much larger fight in 2011 for the inevitable return of corporate protection legislation banning exactly the kinds of municipal networks that are delivering North Carolina better, faster, and cheaper broadband.

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Andrew Madigan
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Andrew Madigan

Of course, in a proper world, the parties would espouse the following: Republicans: The state government shouldn’t involve itself in the affairs of a local government, just as the federal government shouldn’t involve itself in the affairs of the state government. Democrats: If the government can do this efficiently and fairly and business is unwilling to do so then the government should do it. The only position either party takes these days is: Let’s get more ‘donations’ to spend on ‘political campaigns’. I just keep waiting for Google to announce the winner(s) of their fiber initiative, are they planning on… Read more »

me
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me

The ‘and redistricting to “restore fairness” in future elections’ is needed (and has been for 20+ years). The districts here have been convoluted in a crazy fashion. It looks like a crazed jigsaw puzzle. Also this site has shown time and again that Democrat and Republican are both for sale here in NC. The gov here has shown time and again that it bullies the cities and counties around. Takes their money with taxes and tells them they will get large bits of it back then in the end take it away anyway. One of those happened a few years… Read more »

Smith6612
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Smith6612

Heh, and here I am waiting for Fiber Optic Internet to arrive. It’s been pretty much a 5 year wait since FiOS was first known to me, and speaking of which hasn’t been built up any more in my area since last January (nearly a year ago). I’m really wanting to get something decent for the times rather than be sticking with top heavy DSL (maxing at 3Mbps download)/Cable packages.

Uncle Ken
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Uncle Ken

Mr Smith sir. By their own words doubt there will be much more fiber build out. cost to much for the stock holders and CEO’s taste.You could sort of look of it like dvd, and b ray burners players. Fine ideas for their times but as they added more and more controls of what you could do with them the public lost interest. Now no net neutrality so fiber will die on the vine. Fiber can make you go real fast to nowhere not without paying very big money more then I have. Doubt there will be any fiber wars… Read more »

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