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A bill that would place restrictions on the establishment of municipal broadband networks is gaining traction in North Carolina. The proposed legislation, House Bill 129, was passed by the state’s House of Representatives in an 81 to 37 vote on Monday, March 28, and is making its way through the state Senate.
The bill, which has sparked controversy across the state, is called the “Level Playing Field/Local Gov’t Competition” act. The legislation would require communities to alter the way networks are financed and deployed. One section of the bill mandates that a municipal network not price services below their actual costs. The intent of the language appears to be an attempt to protect companies from unfair competition, even though private companies regularly offer incentive deals to attract customers.
By Emily Ford
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Local officials say they have convinced state legislators to exempt Salisbury from a bill that would limit the ability of municipalities to operate broadband networks.
Salisbury recently launched Fibrant, a fiber to the home network that competes with private telecommunication companies to provide Internet, phone and cable TV service.
This marks the fourth year that legislation threatens municipal broadband systems like Fibrant.
A battle over the right of municipalities to offer broadband services has erupted for the fifth time in four years in the North Carolina State Legislature.
This time, there’s both a bill that could curb the ability of cities to offer broadband to their residents and an opposing pro-muni bill that would expand the right to offer broadband to county governments. For the first time in the now long-running battle, however, it appears that the anti-muni broadband bill stands a reasonable chance of passing, says N.C. State Rep. Kelly Alexander.
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A lawmaker in North Carolina proposed a bill that would curtail communities from building their own broadband networks. The move marks the fourth time since 2007 that a state legislator has attempted to limit cities’ ability to create municipal broadband networks.
The most recent proposed measure — “An act to protect jobs and investment by regulating local government competition with private business,” would impose a host of restrictions on cities that want to create their own networks. Among others, the law would curb cities’ ability to fund broadband networks, advertise them, or price the service below-cost.
By Sean Buckley
North Carolina politicians continue to fight pioneering municipal broadband efforts.
The latest of such efforts is coming from Republican Rep. Marilyn Avila (R-Wake County) and HR. 129, “Act to Protect Jobs and Investment by Regulating Local Government Competition With Private Business.“
Craig Settles at Salisbury City Hall. Photo by Jon C. Lakey, Salisbury Post.
By Emily Ford
Creating a municipal fiber optic network was smart, but now the city must market Fibrant and educate users to realize the system’s full potential, a community broadband expert says.
“You have truly 21st century technology,” said Craig Settles, a broadband business strategist from San Francisco who spoke Friday at City Council’s planning retreat. “Do not hide this digital light under a basket. Talk about it and promote it. It will make a difference.”
Fibrant is the city’s fledgling $30 million fiber-to-the-home utility, which was in development for five years. Fibrant has been operating since November and expects to sign up its 500th subscriber this month. The city aims to have 4,400 subscribers in four years.