Community Broadband Wins A Victory in N. Carolina – for Now

Thanks to the hard work of a whole lotta people, the dreaded anti muni network bill was pulled from the committee’s agenda right before the expected throw down.Some of legislators are trying to amend state Senate bill S1209 by striking the requirement for GO bonds to pay for anything related to broadband (this is the feature that effectively makes the bill a moratorium on muni networks). In its place they want to put a task force in place to come up with comprehensive policy regarding muni involvement in broadband.

Here’s a quote from Jay Ovittore, one of the co-Directors with me for Communities United for Broadband. “The consumers can chalk up a small victory today, but there are still battles to be fought. It’s important that the legislators do right by the people who elected them.” Jay, who lives in Greensboro, NC, did a lot of work rallying communities to fight this bill though phone calls, e-mails and attending Senate committee meetings. He also met with many of the state senators in person. These efforts played a big role in today’s win.

As Communities United for Broadband moves forward, Jay is going to be our go-to guy when the organization lends its support to other states that may have to take the battle for broadband to their legislators. I also plan to have Jay pass some of his skills in grass roots broadband activism on to our colleagues via Webinars. So keep an eye out for those.

Also playing major roles in the N. Carolina effort were Catharine Rice, President of SouthEast Association of Telecommunications Officers & Advisors and a long-time advocate for better broadband, the NC League of Municipalities and the cities of Wilson and Salisbury which were there in force at every meeting. Both cities already have built their own networks, so this level of activism is a testimony to the solidarity communities have to force incumbents to back down.

Though my role is a strategy planner who focuses a lot on the business issues surrounding broadband, I constantly tell communities they have to have a political strategy as well because there often will be political battles to fight throughout the network implementation process. In N. Carolina this battle was won by forcing the other side to pull back. But rest assured the incumbents will not give up and those of us working hard for broadband have to answer in kind. Vigilance is everything and readiness is all.

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