Wilson, NC builds fiber network and fights HB1587

I found this cool blog called The Fiber Optic Files – Wilson, NC today. Its written by Brian Bowman, the Public Affairs Manager for the City of Wilson. He linked to my post about the bad bill NC HB 1587. From there I learned more about the fiber network Wilson is constructing and the wonderful resolution [PDF] the Wilson City Council passed in opposition to HB 1587.

This blog also pointed me two great pieces in the Wilson Times. One is a article called Fiber bill faces nays. Both the City Manager and City Attorney of Wilson were quoted in this article. Check this out:

Wilson city manager Grant Goings said local governments have a strong history of stepping up and providing critical infrastructure when the profit motivation is not high enough to entice private sector investment.

“I suspect that there were some unhappy well drillers when the city built a public water supply system, and I doubt our sewer system was good for the septic tank business. But to move communities forward you have to invest in infrastructure,” Goings said.

Exactly! There is a long history in the United States of attempts to block the creation of public infrastructure. Water is one good historical example, so is rural telephone, and now broadband Internet. Many important services are not always profitable but are still necessary. (not to say that providing broadband to everyone wouldn’t be profitable….)

City attorney Jim Cauley said the House bill was written and supported by the telecommunications industry and is “clearly designed to protect their pocketbooks at the expense of the public good.”

“In the interest of corporate protectionism, it will create such a barrier to the construction of municipal broadband infrastructure that many citizens will not have access to high-speed fiber-optic services in the foreseeable future, thereby making our economic development efforts that much more difficult,” Cauley said.

More good points! I’d love to hear more elected officials in Chapel Hill and Carrboro speak to this.

Plus there is another Wilson Times editorial called Bill would protect monopolies.

The short title of the bill is “The Local Government Fair Competition Act,” but the honest title should be “The Monopolies Protection Act.”

The bill, which is in committee in the N.C. House, would establish a series of hurdles for local governments seeking to provide communications services, including telephone, cable television and Internet connections. While some of the provisions can be justified, others are transparently intended to discourage cities or counties from creating competing networks, such as the fiber-optic network the city of Wilson is already installing.

The bill, whose sponsors include House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman and former Speaker Harold Brubaker, would for the first time require the N.C. Utilities Commission to regulate a municipal function. None of the usual municipal utilities — water, sewer, electricity or natural gas — is regulated by the Utilities Commission, which was established to protect consumers against monopolistic corporate giants. Because consumers are also voters and can change leadership at the next election, municipal utilities have been considered self-regulating.

Great to learn about people in other municipalities fighting HB1587!

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