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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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RE: NC going downhill
By Reclaimer77 on 4/5/2011 10:28:03 AM , Rating: -1
As a firm believer in States rights, that is their business imo. People can vote, or vote with their U-Hauls and stop living in Liberal Bastions like NC. Unless they are doing something expressly illegal, Mrs. Whatsherface can butt out quite frankly.

We can't always change what the Fed does. But voters have REAL power when it comes to how states are run. North Carolina citizens are just getting more of what they deserve, they asked for it, election after election.

The issue seems blown out of proportion though. Claiming this bill will wipe Internet off the face of NC is a little extreme. More politics, ugh.

RE: NC going downhill
By mcnabney on 4/5/2011 10:42:59 AM , Rating: 2
The theory here is that this will cement localized internet monopolies. Without competition there is no reason to provide better connectivity, lower prices, or adequate customer service.

It will be a long time before Google Fiber or Verizon FiOS arrives in Rocky Mount, NC. Until then, they have one choice, unless you count dial-up.

RE: NC going downhill
By Brandon Hill on 4/5/2011 10:49:38 AM , Rating: 2
Rocky Mount, NC -- the crossroads of drug trafficking through I-95 ;) Did they ever find that guy that was killing minority hookers up there?

They don't talk about it much on WRAL here for obvious reasons (i.e., it's not a ratings grabber).

RE: NC going downhill
By Uncle on 4/5/2011 8:10:43 PM , Rating: 1
I think another major reason they don't want muni internet other then having a monopoly is that the true cost would be out in the open and the big shits couldn't lie anymore.

RE: NC going downhill
By Reclaimer77 on 4/5/2011 10:51:20 AM , Rating: 2
*edit* I shouldn't have said NC was a Liberal bastion, most of is isn't. Just Charlotte, Raleigh, etc etc.

RE: NC going downhill
By Brandon Hill on 4/5/2011 11:00:06 AM , Rating: 3
I have the feeling that NC might be swinging back to Repub hands in the 2012 presidential election. Obama only had a narrow victory in 2008 IIRC.

RE: NC going downhill
By Reclaimer77 on 4/5/2011 11:40:58 AM , Rating: 1
I have the feeling that NC might be swinging back to Repub hands in the 2012 presidential election. Obama only had a narrow victory in 2008 IIRC.

I've given up on expecting people to do the obviously smart thing, or to even have common sense, when it comes to voting. Whoever has the most style will win, forget substance.

RE: NC going downhill
By Ammohunt on 4/5/2011 3:03:54 PM , Rating: 2
I concur thats why i am preparing for societal collapse...

RE: NC going downhill
By ekv on 4/5/2011 3:31:10 PM , Rating: 1
Perhaps you're user name is an indicator?

Of course, if we go that route, I kind of like my chances ...

RE: NC going downhill
By Ammohunt on 4/6/2011 2:21:17 PM , Rating: 3
Nuclear war sure, but i am leaning more towards the Obama induced first world--> third world transition.

RE: NC going downhill
By ekv on 4/8/2011 7:09:05 AM , Rating: 2
first world--> third world transition
That is happening at a fast rate. Perhaps a fast interceptor can be made to work out in this situation? 8)

RE: NC going downhill
By cruisin3style on 4/5/2011 3:02:29 PM , Rating: 2
Not liberals, they're the bad guys!

RE: NC going downhill
By morphologia on 4/5/2011 4:57:43 PM , Rating: 1
The last time this many people made reference to their "firm belief in states' rights," we had a Civil War.

The last time we had this much bandwagon-jumping, the GOP was desperate to unseat Clinton. They failed, and their partisan extremism may have been the reason.

No matter how many people agree with you when you voice partisan ideals, keep in mind that for every 1 person that agrees with you there's between 2 and 100 people that either totally disagree, or are not affiliated with any party and disapprove of a hardline stance.

Hardline partisanhood does not win people over, it just gratifies people who already share your point of view. We wouldn't have half of the current crop of problems if both parties weren't so in love with partisanhood, and so ignorant of the nation's actual best interests.

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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