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FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn   (Source: nab.org)

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 knutjb on 4/5/2011 11:29:39 PM , Rating: 1
Municipalities are are flawless entities perfect for implementing very expensive it projects. Think Bell Ca. It is deplorable for any level of government to take over any sector of private industry. Corruption in business typically ends in failure, corruption in government is much harder to ferret out and correct. Those huge retirement plans for the city of Bell will still be in place even after they go to jail and cannot be revoked.

Most of the internet regulations stem from municipalities tagging on "fees" in exchange for monopolistic contracts. That was common for the early cable period. To say that a municipality must take over because of whatever reason is pure BS.

Once established a bureaucrat in said municipality will decide no one should have access to porn "to protect our kids," but what is porn? Don't worry the municipality will decide for you. Then someone else will complain about this site or that only adding to the filter, all for the "public good." Once power is given to the government it thwarts any attempt to give it back. Certainly not without a long protracted fight where you end up paying both side's legal bills.

Clyburn has made a number of statements in regards to the internet that are disturbing to me. She has said internet is a civil right. A service a civil right? Really. That combined with her net neutrality diatribe guised as fairness for all, follow the money. When government picks winners we pay more and have less access.

I don't know if the state's bill good but any government entity directly controlling internet access is not.


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