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).

WTF! Not even a pretense that she isn’t in Time Warner’s pocket. At moments like this, it’s hard to tell where to level the full fury of our disgust: against the corporate interests that are determined to subvert the will and sovereignty of our communities; or the incumbents’ pocket legislators that make such assaults on democracy possible.

As just one point of evidence that Time Warner shows equal disregard for the elected body as for the electorate, the Legislative Rep for one of the associations fighting the bill described copies he has of two versions of the bill TW used to do a bait & switch on legislators. One contained fairly mundane stipulations for oversight of community networks. This was used to bait Democratic and Republican legislators to sign onto the bill and get it moving. Only after they were on board did TW whip out the real bill with all the nasty restrictions to which several legislators would never have put their name.

The citizens of N. Carolina ultimately have to decide the answer to the question do they rail against TW or those legislators coming out against constituents’ best interests, and they have five working days to decided and act. From similar fights I’ve seen in other states over the years, all evidence points to the need to do nothing less than carrying the case for community’s rights straight to legislators’ doorsteps. Clearly when it comes to community broadband, there are some legislators who obviously forgot whose votes put them into office. Support your friends, lobby and educate the rest. Loudly.

The battle is now fully joined in NC. But it’s not just their fight, and it’s not a fight solely about broadband. This fight affects everyone who believes that communities deserve the freedom to choose their own best solutions to key problems involving economic development. Communities own the problems of this terrible economy. Federal and state government support is waning in many areas. This next week the big broadband fight’s in N. Carolina. If you can make a phone call or send an e-mail message with even just a few words of support, do it! Just click the link above and continue to a list of legislators who need to hear from their constituents.

One Response

  1. […] We received word this afternoon proponents of community-0wned broadband in North Carolina were under attack by the ironically-named Innovation Policy Blog from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a thinly-disguised, industry-funded think tank. Charges and counter-charges are flying fast and furious. Well-travelled muni broadband consultant Craig Settles says the authors are in the pockets of Time-Warner Cable, and urges people around the country to lobby NC legislators to kill the bills: […]

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