North Carolina Cities fight bill to limit broadband
Legislature considers move some call "No Competition Act"
The Independent Weekly reported June 6, 2007 that:
The North Carolina state legislature is considering a bill that would severely restrict the ability of local governments to provide broadband Internet access. It would affect everything from Chapel Hill's evolving plan for downtown wi-fi access to city partnerships with private industry to some rural communities' efforts to provide access to citizens stuck with nothing but dial-up.
House Bill 1587, "The Local Government Fair Competition Act," is supported by the telecommunications and cable industries, which say cities have unfair advantages—they don't pay taxes and can subsidize a money-losing Internet business with revenue from the city budget. The bill sets out a long list of strict financial and political requirements should a government get into the broadband business. But the N.C. League of Municipalities and a growing number of cities oppose the measure, saying it would effectively make it impossible for local governments to provide Internet service in rural and low-income areas where private industry has decided not to.
Largely ignored by the media, this tug of war between local governments and private industry is part of a trend in which state legislatures are carving out the nation's digital future by enacting laws that will govern the next generation of communications technology. Like the fight over net neutrality, these local laws will have tremendous impact on Americans' access to the Internet in years to come. But unlike that widely publicized congressional battle, these state-level regulations are struggled over in obscurity.
But if the average citizen doesn't know much about this fight, city leaders certainly do. Durham, Chapel Hill, Fayetteville, Greensboro and a growing number of other cities have announced their opposition.
For Chapel Hill, the bill could mean an end to long-running plans. "Chapel Hill does oppose any law that would impede its ability to provide high speed broadband Internet service to the community, so we are in opposition to this bill," says a town spokesperson.
Cary has not taken an official position, but leaders there wrote members of the House committee saying the town "is very concerned about the negative impacts" of the bill, which "could severely limit a local government's ability to foster economic development and bridge the digital divide."
The complete story may be found here: