Join N Carolina Again in Fight Against Anti-Muni Network Laws

Like a bad rash, Time Warner is back this week trying to stifle municipal networks in North Carolina. Not only that, our less-than-competent-broadband-provider Fairpoint is trying to kill a bill this week in New Hampshire that will make it easier for municipalities in that state to pursue the broadband option of their choice. This is the same Fairpoint, with one foot over the bankruptcy grave and the other on a banana peel of abysmal service, that is fighting a broadband stimulus grant awarded to Maine. Oy!

There comes a time when we supporters of broadband have to throw down, as we say in Oaktown. Get front and center with opponents in the legislative arena by flooding e-mail boxes, phone lines and literally the halls of government to push back against incumbent efforts and push forward the rights of communities to make their own choices for broadband.

Be clear with the message

A little further down I list the names and numbers of legislators on the committee that will vote on the N. Carolina bill Wednesday. Not much time, but broadband activists in that state have a track record of rallying troops in a hurry to descend on the state house. Click here for the particulars of the N. Carolina bill.

The main attack points of the incumbents and their allies are simple: 1) government shouldn’t be involved with muni networks because they’re incompetent and the projects will fail, losing taxpayers’ money; 2) local governments will have an unfair marketing advantage and put our poor fragile giant company out of business and 3) let the market decide where broadband goes.

Time Warner uses this second point heavily in N. Carolina. My response (repeat as often as you like) is that the small town of Wilson, NC with an IT staff of less than a dozen people is building a fiber network that is 10 times faster than anything Time Warner has to offer residents. Wilson also offers a gigabit service to its businesses.

If you’re a bezillion dollar company and a town of 50,000 can put up a service you can’t even begin to offer, you need to send your engineering team to Wilson to learn a thing or two – or just get out of the business. You don’t have a problem with unfair competition, you have a problem of technological ineptitude.

As for the “muni network failures” argument, let me say this about that. During the five years I’ve worked in this space, incumbents have rolled out the same false argument about fiber networks, usually supported by citing iProvo and Burlington Telcom networks while ignoring the dozens of success stories. IProvo, btw, was taken over by a private company and then failed. It’s the same as attacks on municipal wireless incumbents supported by trotting out failures that were in fact the failures of private sector companies in Portland, OR, Tempe, AZ, Philadelphia and others.

Every time you start a conversation about broadband with a legislator, or anyone really, begin with “57 municipalities run their own fiber networks successfully, so if we consider that as an option don’t tell us these networks are failures.” Expose the lie for what it is. Here is information on those 57 successes. Add this to your case, it includes info on muni wireless networks.

One more thing before you cut loose. The arguments that the market should take care of everything is often made by people who also deny there are broadband market failures. I just wrote a column on why community broadband, in whatever shape it takes including municipal-owned, is a free market issue – but not the free market that incumbents advocate. Jot down the five short points of Communities United for Broadband’s free market strategy. Now you’re prepared to go get ‘em.

Taking names and pushing back

Here are the N. Carolina state legislators who sit on the committee that will vote on Time Warner’s anti-muni network bill. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to get the New Hampshire legislators before they vote, but you can e-mail New London Town Administrator Jessica Levine who will appreciate your support.

You may not live in the state, but Communities United for Broadband believes that all communities are in this fight together. This week it’s Maine and N. Carolina. Next month, it may be your state under siege, or wanting to move to repeal anti-muni network laws. Karma’s a wonderful thing when you cultivate it.

  1. Sen. Daniel Gray Clodfelter (Co-Chair) (919) 715-8331 Democrat (704) 331-1041
  2. Sen. Daniel T. Blue, Jr. (919) 733-5752 Democrat (919) 833-1931
  3. Sen. Peter Samuel Brunstetter (919) 733-7850 Republican (336) 747-6604
  4. Sen. Fletcher Lee Hartsell, Jr. (919) 733-7223 Republican (704) 786-5161
  5. Sen. David W. Hoyle (919) 733-5734 Democrat (704) 867-0822
  6. Sen. Samuel Clark Jenkins (919) 715-3040 Democrat (252) 823-7029
  7. Sen. Josh Stein (919)715-6400 Democrat (919)715-6400
  8. Sen. Jerry W. Tillman (919) 733-5870 Republican (336) 431-5325
  9. Rep. Paul Luebke (Co-Chair) 919-733-7663 Democrat 919-286-0269
  10. Rep. Harold J. Brubaker 919-715-4946 Republican 336-629-5128
  11. Rep. Becky Carney 919-733-5827 Democrat 919-733-5827
  12. Rep. Pryor Allan Gibson, III Anson, Union 919-715-3007 Democrat 704-694-5957 Builder/Time Warner Cable contractor
  13. Rep. Dewey Lewis Hill 919-733-5830 Democrat 910-642-6044
  14. Rep. Julia Craven Howard 919-733-5904 Republican 336-751-3538
  15. Rep. Daniel Francis McComas 919-733-5786 Republican 910-343-8372
  16. Rep. William C. McGee Forsyth 919-733-5747 Republican 336-766-4481
  17. Rep. William L. Wainwright Craven, Lenoir 919-733-5995 Democrat 252-447-7379
  18. Rep. Jennifer Weiss 919-715-3010 Democrat 919-715-3010

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