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FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn   (Source:

North Carolina is considering a proposal that would allow a state panel to kill a voter-approved municipal internet service.  (Source: Reuters)
Clyburn is no fan of H.129

As Bill H.129 [PDF] continues to roll on to North Carolina's State Senate Judiciary Committee, having passed the house, controversy surrounding the measure is growing.  

Ostensibly the bill is designed to provide a "level playing field" between local government municipal service projects and local private sector.  However, the bill contains redundant language and sneaks in some provisions that could be the death of municipal services.  

Namely, it makes it much harder to fund such services.  And it hands complete control of whether to ban or approve new voter-ratified services to a state board -- at a time when reportedly state officials have been accepting campaign donations from local telecom monopolists.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn on Monday weighed in [PDF] to the debate, blasting the measure.  Similar to our analysis, she asserts that the bill's provisions first seem worthwhile/innocuous, but the actual language allows for disturbing possibilities.  She states, "This piece of legislation certainly sounds goal-worthy, an innocuous proposition, but do not let the title fool you."

She goes on to write:

This measure, if enacted, will not only fail to level the playing field; it will discourage municipal governments from addressing deployment in communities where the private sector has failed to meet broadband service needs. In other words, it will be a significant barrier to broadband deployment and may impede local efforts to promote economic development.

I remain concerned that when cities and local governments are prohibited from investing directly in their own broadband networks, citizens may be denied the opportunity to connect with their nation and improve their lives. Local economies will suffer as a result, and the communities' ability to effectively address education, health, public safety, and other social issues will be severely hampered.

At this point, the FCC is still trying to scrounge up spectrum for an auction tentatively slotted for 2012.  That auction might allow for the creation of a national broadband offering.  However, even the FCC seemingly concedes that a national offering could be less efficient than a local-based one, backed by the community.

At the root of the issue is the lack of competition in the market.  High costs are certainly one barrier to entry.  And the tendency of state legislators/courts to cast a blind eye on anticompetitive tactics from their local telecom only worsens the matter.

Arkansas and South Carolina are reportedly considering measures similar to North Carolina's.

Some provisions of the NC bill certainly seem valid -- for example that the projects need to be approved by local voters in a special election and that town hall meetings must be held before hand.

However, other provisions are baffling.  For example, the services are banned from exercising the same pricing methodology as their corporate "competitors".  In that regard, if anything the bill creates an unlevel playing field.

Further, even if voters approve of it, cities are disallowed from using much of their funds to finance the project.  And there are restrictions on their ability to seek loans from the private sector.  To make matters worse, they have to pay themselves a tax on the service, which they cannot reinvest into improving the service.

And then there's the issue of the state panel created by NC's pending legislation.  That panel would be granted the power to override voters in a municipality and kill outright or otherwise stall to death broadband projects.  At a time when telecoms are pouring thousands in campaign donations to state senators and representatives in an effort to preserve their monopolies/duopolies, this certainly seems like a dangerous allowance.

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Cmon 4G...
By quiksilvr on 4/5/2011 9:13:00 AM , Rating: 2
Get to 100 Mbp/s and 5ms ping so we can be rid of these cable companies once and for all.

RE: Cmon 4G...
By Mr Perfect on 4/5/2011 9:27:05 AM , Rating: 2
That would work if they didn't have data caps from 2000 on there. What is a 4G datacap these days? Something like 5 gigs?

RE: Cmon 4G...
By FITCamaro on 4/5/2011 9:58:26 AM , Rating: 2
Depends on the service. Sprint says unlimited.

RE: Cmon 4G...
By torpor on 4/5/2011 10:27:07 AM , Rating: 2
I have a Samsung Epic on sprint, I've pulled down 2 large system updates, use twitter, send photos up and down, get pushed email, and have dozens of apps installed, all over the air.

No nastygrams yet. Seems unlimited in practice, so far as I can tell. Although I'm still waiting for my 4G service....

RE: Cmon 4G...
By mcnabney on 4/5/2011 10:34:24 AM , Rating: 2
But you are still paying the extra $10/mo for a 4G device...

RE: Cmon 4G...
By torpor on 4/5/2011 2:36:27 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, and it sucks ant balls (which takes impressive skill).

But no cap on the service, 3G or 4G.

RE: Cmon 4G...
By Mr772 on 4/5/2011 3:22:55 PM , Rating: 2
But you are still paying the extra $10/mo for a 4G device...

And even with the $10 extra its sure to be cheaper than AT&T or Verizon.

RE: Cmon 4G...
By Jalek on 4/5/2011 8:09:10 PM , Rating: 2
Yep, mine sure is. Sprint's CEO talking about the definition of "unlimited" is also brilliant marketing as everyone else cuts back on their "unlimited" services.

RE: Cmon 4G...
By Motoman on 4/5/2011 9:59:36 AM , Rating: 2
Cellular service isn't the answer. It's nice, and good to have around...but the physics aren't there.

Wired connectivity is what needs to happen...even if it's just cable or DSL. FiOS would be great...but don't hold your breath.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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