Day 4 – The Battle for North Carolina Broadband

Well, so much for the value of representative democracy. That concept took a big hit yesterday. Community representatives in N. Carolina were led to believe by state house member Avila, “author” of this Time Warner anti-community network bill, that she was bringing both sides of the bill together yesterday to discuss a fair resolution to this issue.

Representative Avila seemed to hold the same view I expressed in my last report, that every year NC goes through this same Time-Warner-driven ordeal and after much wailing, gnashing of teeth and victory by consumers, a nasty bill gets defeated. So let’s come up with some rational plan that makes sense.

So what happens? Lawyers from city governments with broadband networks and representatives of various city and county associations show up with well thought out ideas for ways to get broadband delivered that benefits all parties. Rep. Avila promptly turns over the meeting to Time Warner’s lawyer who takes control of the meeting, rambles on about why community networks are a threat to TW and doesn’t allow community representatives a word in edgewise.

Rep. Avila concludes this farce of an attempt at representing both sides by siding with Time Warner to declare that the bill in all its pro-corporate, anti-community glory will stay as written, and be brought before the Assembly’s Public Utility Committee mid-next week (check back for exact time).

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Day 2 – The Battle for North Carolina Broadband

A couple of weeks ago I spoke in Salisbury, NC to the Mayor, City Council, several state legislators and a couple hundred stakeholders/fans of the city’s Fibrant fiber network (the video’s embedded in Salisbury Post article). The gist of my talk was to spell out how to use the network to impact economic development.

Early on I told the audience I had supported N. Carolina’s previous fights for communities’ right to make their own broadband decisions, and promoted Salisbury’s, Wilson’s and Asheville’s networks at every opportunity. I pledged to continue to fight along with them again. Though I knew a Time Warner effort was lurking in the shadows, I didn’t expect the battle would come so quickly and with such a breadth of potential negative impact.

Luckily, the communities have had three previous battles to perfect their rapid response capabilities. Even though Time Warner’s NC legislative allies took Monday night as the opportunity to schedule a first showdown for today, yesterday citizens across the state struck back with a fury that obviously took some legislators by surprise. Today’s meeting was postponed for a week, and the bill’s author sent out an olive branch seeking to bring the two sides together to work out a compromise.

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N. Carolina’s Broadband Fight for Freedom to Choose is Now!

Well, this looks like the year Time Warner and other incumbents bring a true scorched earth approach to their quest to eliminate N. Carolina communities’ right to make their own best decisions about saving and expanding local economies. This latest anti-muni network bill is the most expansive legislator-facilitated attack on community freedom I’ve seen in the incumbents’ Seven Years War on community networks.

You can read all the details here. It’s ironic that this bill restricting communities’ ability to address local economic, healthcare and education issues is spearheaded by state legislators who likely scream bloody murder about the Fed’s intruding into NC’s business. Hypocrisy!

The other irony is that you have a Democratic administration in DC with a national broadband plan that encourages community networks, but a Time Warner bill to smother such efforts in NC has more Dems than you’d expect supporting the bill. Disappointment!

Communities that reject the hypocrisy and the disappointment need to rally and aggressively fight against this bill, even if you don’t live in the state. Rest assured that an incumbent win in the Carolinas is going to lead to escalated attacks on community networks in other states.

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Battlin’ for Community Broadband from DC to NC and Beyond

Last week was pretty intense. Two cross-country trips that reflect the hope and the frustration of fighting for better broadband.

In Washington, DC on Monday enduring the frustration of rolling that “public good” boulder once again up the hill of opposition made steep by the influence of corporate interests. In Salisbury, NC on Friday to lay down a message of hope for a community that faces the constant threat of Time Warner-driven anti-muni network legislation.

You can catch my debate with Blair Levin on YouTube. Occasionally you get the impression here’s someone for whom pride of authorship has given them an air of superiority, that there is only one true way to solve our problems, even while acknowledging the plan is not perfect. If not superiority, then definitely a license to be overbearing in demeanor.

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Hey, Your National Broadband Map’s Here.

I listened to NTIA’s press briefing on the national broadband map (NBM) and when it was over, I posed the question on Twitter: What do we have?

We have 1) An expensive map, though mercifully under budget. 2) A data intensive map (I’m seriously awed by the breadth of it). 3) A nice tool for creating all kinds of reports that will have varying levels of value. 4) Ample signs that people worked hard on this, delivered on time and deserve a vacation.

I should state that I haven’t looked at the actual map except to try to find details on where I live, and to look at the rankings of states based on the percentage of populations that have 1 gigabit service. Slow speeds and browser freeze kinda dampers things.

Anywho, the real question everyone should be asking is, what do we have relative to the main mission of this mapping exercise? Is this end product worth $200 million in the overall scheme of improving broadband in America through better policy and financial decision making?

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Two Perspectives on the National Broadband Plan: The Man Who Wrote the Plan Meets the Man Who Wrote the Book

Monday (Feb 7) offers a good runup to the FCC’s public comment process that starts with the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on Feb. 8, and allows us, the governed, to say how we feel about the FCC’s plans to reform the Universal Service Fund. On Monday, Blair Levin, chief architect of the National Broadband Plan, and I discuss our similar and differing views on said Plan.

Moderating this Meet the Press-type discussion are The Wall St. Journal’s technology policy reporter Amy Schatz, GigaOm’s News Editor Stacey Higginbotham and the Washington Post’s technology policy reporter Cecilia Kang. GigaOm and the New America Foundation are hosting this event at New America’s DC Office. Questions also will be fielded from the live and online audiences.

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