News: Save broadband competition in NC

April 24, 2009 at 8:17 am Leave a comment

A friend recently let me know about this news about NC broadband on Slashdot:

The good people of Wilson, NC pay $99/month for 10/10 Mbps internet service, 81 TV channels and telephone service. How’d they manage that, you ask? Well, the city-owned and operated cable service called Greenlight came into being when the City of Wilson approached TWC and local DSL provider Embarq and requested faster service for the area. “TWC refused the request. And so Greenlight was born,” says blogger Peter Smith. “Now Time Warner Cable and Embarq are upset that they’ve got competition, and rather than try to go head to head with Greenlight on price and service, they’ve instead been lobbying the state government of NC to pass laws to put Greenlight out of business. Apparently they’re having some success, as the NC State Senate has proposed bills that would do TWC’s bidding.”

This is terrible news for consumers of high speed internet services like myself.  Read more about the bills at Brian Bowman’s WordPress blog about the bills.  If you’re as fired up as I am, write to your North Carolina legislators.  Look them up here.  If you don’t remember their names, find them here.

Here’s what I wrote to my NC House and Senate reps: 

As someone who resides in your respective districts and who voted for both of you, I am highly concerned about these two bills, which seek to stifle competition and limit North Carolina consumers’ opportunities. I am writing to ask that you withdraw your support from these bills and vote against them.

I was amazed and impressed to learn about what the town of Wilson has done to offer broadband access to its citizens. As a long time hostage of Time Warner Cable, I would dearly love to have the option of receiving great service at a fair rate as the people of Wilson do.

It is my understanding that, under these bills, the requirements put upon local governments who wish to offer broadband services are far more onerous than the major providers in the industry must meet. Additionally, I find highly disturbing the prohibition on obtaining Federal Broadband Stimulus Grants. These actions will not only limit competition with TWC and other large service providers but likely entirely stifle such competition.

There’s a reason why there are antitrust provisions in the law – they are meant to protect consumers. Bills like these, and other bills supporting monopoly situations, allow for what is, in essence, a hostage situation. If we want the services, we have to pay whatever TWC and its ilk demand. Without greater competition, there will be no need for these companies to lower their prices to a more reasonable level – and no reason for them to concern themselves with innovation to allow themselves to charge less and continue to profit.

Again, I ask that you vote against these bills if presented with such an opportunity. I expect that, to the extent your constituency is aware of this situation, they are likely to agree with me and will likewise appreciate your “no” vote.

Josh Stein replied within minutes:

Thank you for your email on the regulation of competition between local government and private businesses that provide communication services to the public (Senate Bill 1004).  It must be a priority of the state to expand broadband access.

I will take your thoughts into consideration as Senate Bill 1004 comes before me in the Senate. 

Again, I appreciate your email, and please feel free to contact me again if you have other concerns on this or other legislation.

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Entry filed under: NC, News.

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