HB1587 passes Utilities Committee

Greater Access to Technology for Everyone

I went to the NC House Utilities Committee meeting this morning. It was held in the North Carolina Legislature building. I’d never been inside before and it was an eye opening experience. I was there to oppose The Local Government Fair Competition Act. Man this bill is anything but fair for local governments and its citizens!

I was extremely proud that Mark Kleinschmidt and Sally Greene, two of my local elected officials, were there too. Lots of people attended who opposed the bill also. The room was standing room only. (That green logo with the acronym G.A.T.E. was also a sticky badge many of us wore at the meeting. Thanks to the work of the City of Wilson.)

Many people, including myself, wanted to speak. But in the end only two people were allowed too. Wade Hargrove, an attorney for the Telecommunications Industry, and Wilson Mayor Bruce Rose.

Mr. Hargrove’s sound bite of the day was, “If you had closed your eyes at the hearing last week [May hearing of this committee], you might have thought you were in Moscow.” Yep. You read that right. He brandished the commie boogie man label. In a room full of local elected officials who’ve sworn to uphold the American way. I’d hazard a bet that they are all capitalist. But in this day and age of right wing control of the USA its ok to pretend you are for us or a commie pinko. Has this man ever heard of socially responsible business practices? Many of the people in the audience laughed out loud at his remark. Some went as far to tell him as he waked by that his statement was taking it too far.

Mayor Rose read a prepared speech defending his City’s work and the rights of citizens to have public infrastructure. In this case a fiber optic network that carries broadband Internet to the people of Wilson, NC. Their network construction is well underway. I have to say I’m jealous. The idea of having megabit fiber coming to my house is enticing. Some lucky people in Wilson will have a great resource at their disposal very soon. The entrepreneurial opportunities will be pretty great I bet.

Please read Sally’s post called When is a public utility not a public utility?. She took great notes. Writer extraordinar Fiona Morgan was in attendance too. She wrote a story for the Indy about this terrible bill called Cities fight bill to limit broadband.

The bill [HB1587] has strong backing on the committee—four of its members are co-sponsors, including committee chair Saunders and Vice Chair Rep. Harold Brubaker (R-Randolph). Its other sponsor, Rep. Hugh Holliman (D-Davidson), is on the finance committee. Campaign finance records show that all five of the bill’s sponsors accepted $4,000 or more in contributions from industry PACs (view chart, “The money connection”). In fact, Wells, who spoke on behalf of the industry at the hearing, personally gave $400 to Brubaker’s campaign last year.

Fiona pledged to continue to cover this story as it develops.

More documentation of this meeting coming soon…

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