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.

This proposed Time Warner law would:

  • Strip away communities’ right to do business where they choose;
  • Micromanage with whom communities can enter into contractual agreements;
  • Dictate how a community endeavor can advertise, market and promote itself;
  • Dictate pricing for a community service;
  • Micromanage other important community decision-making responsibilities;
  • Levy special taxes similar to taxes and/or fees normally exempted for local government enterprises;
  • Force communities to expose data that leaves them vulnerable to unfair competition.
  • Intrude on local autonomy with reporting requirements that all but kill communities’ ability to operate a network effectively

Despite the supposed veneer of political due process via bill numbers and committee meetings, this is a blatant effort of corporations to obliterate the sovereignty of mayors, city councils, county commissioners and voting citizens throughout the state! Let us not forget former NC State Senator David Hoyle’s admission after recently leaving the Senate that he allowed Time Warner people to literally write last year’s anti-muni network bill.

When did “We the People” and our democratic process get crucified upon the cross of the free market? Or better stated, the cross of corporate profits. It all likely started when we bastardized the concept of “free market” to mean “anything [and we mean anything] that’s good for business is good for communities.”

Communities United for Broadband advocates a free market that we feel is true to the original concept:

  • Our community is a free market.
  • As a market, our businesses, local governments, institutions and individuals collectively spend significant dollars on communication services.
  • Despite our spending as a market, we have unmet broadband needs and unfulfilled dreams.
  • Subsequently we will use our purchasing power and political clout to get the broadband we need and want through private- and/or public-sector solutions of our choosing.
  • The success of our community-driven free-market strategy is our ability to encourage, facilitate or create competitors in our market, which we will do.

Time Warner-driven bills are the pathetic attempts by a company that knows quite a few free markets in NC will vote thumbs down on many of TW’s offerings if given the chance. And why not? Here’s a company with billions in assets and armies of staff and workers, yet small Wilson. NC with a relatively tiny staff managed the engineering, financing and building of a network that offers speeds Time Warner can’t match. And the speeds they can match, Wilson offers for less money. Salisbury is right on their heals with its own Fibrant network. Asheville has a local co-op running broadband where Time Warner can’t afford to go.

So those who believe in true free markets need to get on the horn right now to the State House representatives who meet tomorrow (2/23, 12:00 p.m., Legislative Office Building, Room 643). Click this link, then click each committee member’s. Send them e-mail, call them up, or both.

Your message doesn’t have to be long, just clear and to the point – “community broadband is our choice, not Time Warner’s.”

Your community may or may not want to have a broadband network. There are various options for public or private ownership if you do want better broadband. The key thing is that communities own the problem, and communities have to live with the solutions. Time Warner doesn’t give a rat’s left hindquarter about your community, as they clearly want to take away your right to create your own best solutions.

If you want better broadband, you have to fight for it. If you want less intrusion into your community’s technology decisions, then you have to fight for that too. Now is the time to step up.

2 Responses

  1. The National Broadband Map (www.broadbandmap.gov) is now out. It shows reasonable coverage of wired and wireless networks with speeds up to about 25Mbps, but deployment of fiber-to-the-premise is dismal and disappointing. That’s because of the Chicken versus Egg dilemma facing network operators who can’t justify capacity upgrades until there’s market demand from innovative new apps demanding bandwidth. But those apps can’t be created until the faster networks are deployed.

    Commercial companies like Time Warner define success differently than municipalities. Answering to shareholders, they have a relatively short-term investment horizon and measure success in terms of profit, ROI and payback period. Public infrastructure investments, on the other hand, are justified over longer periods, and success is measured in terms such as economic development, graduation rates, traffic relief, better medical care, and open government with more citizen involvement.

    Why do we need municipal fiber networks? See my presentation at http://www.slideshare.net/waynecaswell/big-broadband-and-gigabittothehome-6726015.

  2. My point is there is a movement to take away the renters right to choose which broadband and cable provider they can choose. The property owners are saying it is their property and they decide who runs the coax or fibers for a kickback of course. You are then limited to a single provider with no ability to do business with the competition if the service is poor. The provider knows they don’t have to provide good service because you have no choice.

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