updated 02:10 pm EDT, Wed May 6, 2009
N Carolina Ices Anti-Muni
North Carolina's House of Representatives today said it has sent a controversial bill that would have restricted municipal broadband to a study committee. The move effectively shelves the bill for at least a year and comes after those opposing it put pressure on the House to reevaluate the measure, which would have banned cities from taking advantage of any Obama administration broadband stimulus money while still letting private carriers take advantage of the funds themselves. It would have also in many cases made it difficult for such services to continue.
The bill was co-created with the help of incumbent carriers in the state, such as Sprint spin-off Embarq and Time Warner, which had proposed it largely to prevent municipal broadband from competing with their own services. Most of the action was sparked by Wilson, North Carolina's city-run Greenlight service: the fiber optic-based Internet provider offers a 10Mbps symmetric connection for $35 per month, or about $20 less than Time Warner's asymmetric plan, and also offers a 100Mbps service that none of the major firms offer.
Critics have noted that the cable and DSL providers have also in other cases tried to shut down municipal broadband efforts even in towns they don't plan to serve. The broadband stimulus is meant largely to address the gap by either offsetting the costs of expanding into these areas or letting local firms provide enough coverage on their own.