Facts Can’t Trump Broadband Reality in North Carolina

Recently I’ve written a few columns on this neat little campaign incumbents are running to fight off regulations from an FCC trying, in the face of mixed reviews, to make the market more competitive. “Facts are stubborn things,” a quote probably unearthed by a wise PR person, is their campaign to prove broadband competition is great by flooding us with facts irrelevant to the reality communities face.

This tactic is not isolated in its use to incumbent execs and their industry lobbyist brigades. Incumbents’ pocket legislators often try to baffle us with b.s. they pass off as facts because they have no dazzling, credible justification for trying to kill communities’ efforts to make the broadband most appropriate for their citizens. N. Carolina is currently suffering such a factoid flood – again.

The legislature there has some members who’ve sunk to new lows. It’s not only future networks they’re trying to kill with Senate bill S1209. This being their fifth or sixth run at such legislation, Time Warner’s and AT&T’s water bearers are going for the scorched earth approach. This bill intends to kill everything related to community involvement, including public private partnership. Here’s an e-mail I got last week.

“This is an industry-sponsored bill structured simply to prevent competition to Time Warner Cable and AT&T.  By limiting the construction, operation, maintenance or repair of municipal “external communication systems” to general obligation bonds (and the pre-requisite referendums), it will shut down our current muni broadband systems, prevent new ones from being deployed, prevent future public-private partnerships like GOOGLE FIBER, shut down our public safety networks and even prevent smart grid technology deployments. North Carolina is a leader in advanced broadband networks due to Salisbury and Wilson fiber systems, taking us today to where our country’s National Broadband Plan has us in 20 years. We need to invest in more broadband infrastructure for our state’s global competitiveness, not shut it down.”

To aid this attempted massacre along, you have the most incredibly ridiculous stream of useless facts flowing from their lead pocket legislator, State Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston (as excerpted from my column in TMCnet last week).

Last month Hoyle informed everyone about the fact that fiber is going to be obsolete in a couple of years, so why waste money on fiber networks. Hmm, a lot of us obviously missed the memo that Hoyle is privy to.

This same senator says the purpose of his bill is to save communities from themselves. I guess that’s is why two towns and several counties in N. Carolina are running successful muni networks that save consumers and businesses a ton of money. It’s also why you have dozens of cities and counties across the U.S. running effective networks that have boosted their local economies. Quick, someone stop those communities before they succeed again!

Thousands of incumbent campaign dollars go into Hoyle’s campaign fund. Yet, ‘The lobbyists don’t influence me,’ he said. ‘I’m in the pocket of the people that provide jobs for this state, and Time Warner Cable employs 8,500 in this state.” Anyone ever tell this man that the profits TWC collects goes to Manhattan, not N. Carolina? And what of the thousands of N. Carolina businesses that collectively hire many more than 8,500 people, but will get screwed because the bill cripples the one source that’s actually providing networks at true broadband speeds?

The most insidious Fact vs. Reality moment comes from the legislative champions of the bill’s requirement for a referendum on any muni network expenditures who say they want “citizens to decide these issues.” Look at every referendum that’s been brought up over the years regarding muni networks.

Incumbents set up fake public interest groups, funnel in hundreds of thousands of dollars for misinformation campaigns, and rely on laws that prevent local governments from educating constituents about the referendum. In no way are the citizens deciding, at least not in a fairly executed democratic process. This is what makes the Hoyle bill a de facto moratorium on muni networks and a potential pox upon N. Carolina houses.

So, as you see, facts can be not only stubborn, but also outrageously twisted, incredibly self-serving and truly devoid of any connection to the reality of those communities struggling for broadband that’s fit for the 21st century.

Show a little support for our colleagues in N. Carolina. You can get contact info for their state legislators at the end of this story in Stop the Cap. Reach out and touch someone.

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