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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Municipal broadband bill takes a time out

Posted by on Thu, May 27, 2010 at 4:23 PM

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  • D.L. Anderson
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Dan Clodfelter, D-Mecklenburg, is working on a compromise between local governments and cable companies over the highly controversial broadband bill, S1209, that would sharply limit local governments that want to build their own broadband or fiber-optic network or need to expand or repair a current network.

The bill was pulled from the Senate Finance Committee meeting Wednesday; it is scheduled to be heard Tuesday, June 1 at 1 p.m.

Introduced by state Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston, at the Revenue Laws Study Committee meeting on May 5, the bill quickly sparked concern over its requirement that local governments hold a public vote to build, repair or expand Internet services. Telecommunications companies support S 1209 because they don’t want to compete with cities and towns in providing high-speed Internet service.

Sen. William Purcell, a Democrat representing Anson, Richmond, Scotland, and Stanly counties, attended yesterday's meeting, and said he cannot support S 1209 as written.

“I hope the bill is going to come back changed,” said Sen. Purcell. “I have had a lot of calls and emails from local governments in my district who are very concerned about this bill."

Sen. Purcell is most concerned with the burden the bill places on local governments to apply for and receive General Obligation Bonds before implementing a broadband system or repairing an existing project. “Local governments going up against powerful communications people who have the money to do a large campaign against a broadband project during a general election, could make it virtually impossible for any city to put in their own system.”

Municipal cable and broadband consultant Catharine Rice of Action Audits said, “I think Sen. Clodfelter finally understands that there are negative impacts to Sen. Hoyle's bill.”

“These Senators have to hear from the grassroots,” said Rice. “They need to hear from their own people who don't want our state handed over to Time Warner Cable and AT&T.”

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