North Carolina Municipal Broadband Bill Draws Fire

Law restricts local governments' ability to compete with private cable and telecom companies
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A new North Carolina law passed by the legislature two weeks ago restricting local governments' ability to compete with private cable and telecom companies is being targeted by a self-described government corruption-fighting web site.

The law has passed the legislature, but has yet to be signed by the governor according to bill opponents trying a last-ditch move to stop it.

"[T]he North Carolina legislature has passed a bill that bans competition from community broadband networks. Under this legislation, local communities would be held hostage to the corporate broadband networks that have given America second-rate networks everywhere," said Lawrence Lessig of rootstrikers.org. "We need you to contact your North Carolina friends and ask them to contact Governor Bev Perdue (D-NC), and ask her to veto this ridiculous bill," he adds.

Among other things, the cable-backed bill limits city-owned communications service to the corporate limits of the city--unless it is to serve an "unserved" area, prevents a city from delaying the provision of monopoly service, prevents cross-subsidization of municipal service and prevents any ads for city service on PEG channels.

Lessig is not the only one unhappy with the bill.

Catherine Rice, president of the SouthEast Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors who fought the bill's passage, called it the Monopoly Protection Act, and said that it "places prohibitive restrictions on cities and towns that seek to provide communications services to their local residents and businesses that are unserved or underserved by private providers."

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