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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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By 3DoubleD on 4/5/2011 1:41:05 PM , Rating: 1
I've seen several speeches made by Congress members of how Wall Street was threatening doom and placing inappropriate pressure on them. You can google the videos yourself.

I'm beginning to think that you are focusing on the slogan "too big to fail" rather than the concept. I don't know who coined the term. It could have been the media or politicians, it doesn't matter. The term is simply a description of what Wall Street was threatening the entire time: "if we fail, we are taking everyone with us".

Wall Street was threatening catastrophe, they owned the Treasury, and the 2008 elections were around the corner. I agree with your assertion of the cold, calculating masterminding. Where we differ is who the enemy was. You claim it is our elected leaders - but the bailout was defeated when it came to vote. A few backroom deals later... and the bailout was passed.

It was nothing short of brilliantly executed (surely masterminded as you said), but you can't just stick a "blame the government" sticker on this when it was Wall Street in the driver seat the whole time! If the people run the government then it is their fault for allowing Wall Street to take over the Treasury and buy the votes they need to pass the bail-out. If you vote for a government that gives corporations free reign to bet-big/lose-big and manipulate the government in any manner they please, you are signing your country and freedoms away.

"Government" has becoming a bad word in America lately, and I can see why, look what the people have created! But if the people demanded that corporate influences in government be moderated, then perhaps they wouldn't be so appalled/surprised by the decisions made.

So as I see it, I blame corporate America first and the people second. Corporate America commit the crimes (repeatedly). America buys the mantra they sell in the media (government regulation = bad, the American dream, ect.) and then place blame on the government they elected when they should be blaming the original crooks.

And I don't mean the government should be heavily regulating the markets, I mean the government should be regulating the influence of corporations on their decision making, especially regarding the freedoms and quality of life of its citizens. How could such a thing be bad?

Also, I don't think all elected representatives are worthy of their position, but my point has been that even the few that do deserve to represent us are ineffective so long as the plutocracy exists. When I read the above article, I don't think "the NC government is terrible". Instead, I think about how terrible it is that the will of the people can be subverted by corporate lobbying.

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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