New N.C. Bill Would Restrict Muni Broadband

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A lawmaker in North Carolina proposed a bill that would curtail communities from building their own broadband networks. The move marks the fourth time since 2007 that a state legislator has attempted to limit cities' ability to create municipal broadband networks.

The most recent proposed measure -- "An act to protect jobs and investment by regulating local government competition with private business," would impose a host of restrictions on cities that want to create their own networks. Among others, the law would curb cities' ability to fund broadband networks, advertise them, or price the service below-cost.

Last year, a similar proposal would have effectively imposed a moratorium on new community-based networks by preventing cities from using revenue from other public utilities to finance broadband networks. That measure, which drew heated opposition from municipal broadband proponents, never gained traction with lawmakers.

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In addition, a 2009 proposal was shelved after Wilson's public affairs manager, Brian Bowman, helped organize opposition at the site SaveNCBroadband.com. Wilson recently built its own broadband network, Greenlight, which offers broadband connections of 10 Mbps upstream and downstream, more than 80 cable channels and digital phone service for $100 a month. When it rolled out in 2008, Greenlight was the fastest and cheapest network in the area.

Another North Carolina town, Salisbury, recently began rolling its own fiber-to-the-home network -- Fibrant, which offers connections at speeds of 15 Mbps in both directions.

Previous attempts to curb municipal broadband were backed by Time Warner and other incumbent broadband providers.

 

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