HB1587 is dead

The NC House failed to act on HB1587 before they ended this session. So not only don’t we have the bad bill we don’t have the new study version either. The Local Government Fair Competition Act is dead! Goodbye! See ya!

I’m really happy we all got together and killed this thing. But I realize the old skool corporate lobbyist movement to restrict actual fair and OPEN competition in local broadband is alive. Undead if you will.

So keep your zombie battle gear handy. A good way to stay on top of this is by joining the NC Public Broadband list. We’ll have to get back to sending bad bills back to hell real soon.

Support the 'Community Broadband Act of 2007'

Yeah FreePress! I just got this Action Alert email. I’ll repost it here in it entirety. This is a really good action item. We need to support the new federal bill BEFORE the new study of HB1587 is done. If this new Federal bill passes HB1587 may become obsolete and maybe illegal!

Dear Brian,

Community Internet is safe for now in North Carolina. Help us protect the Internet for everyone:

Support the ‘Community Broadband Act of 2007’

The people of North Carolina scored a huge victory this week when HB 1587, the anti-municipal broadband bill, was derailed until 2009.

This bad bill — written by AT&T and Time Warner — would have eliminated the ability of cities and towns to build high-speed broadband networks to connect communities that have been overlooked by these phone and cable giants.

This bill will not be acted on until after a “study committee” report in 2009. At that time, the bill could still be voted on depending on the committee’s recommendations.

You can help make sure that doesn’t happen. Urge your members of Congress to support a bill that allows towns and cities to offer an Internet alternative. Support the “Community Broadband Act of 2007”:

ACT NOW: Internet for Everyone in North Carolina

Earlier this week, the bipartisan Community Broadband Act of 2007 was introduced in the Senate. The bill would ensure that states cannot prevent local governments from providing broadband networks to their residents and businesses.

This important bill would not only stop the bad bill in North Carolina, it would prevent Internet monopolies from attempting to stifle municipal broadband in other states.

North Carolina has fallen behind other states in high-speed Internet access. According to FCC data, the state ranks 41st in the nation in high-speed broadband adoption. In broadband growth rate, North Carolina ranks 47th.

Help bring the benefits of high-speed Internet access to your state — and all Americans. Tell your legislators in Washington to support the Community Broadband Act of 2007:

ACT NOW: Support the Community Broadband Act of 2007

Defeating HB 1587 is a huge accomplishment, but it may have little meaning if we don’t protect the rights of cities and towns to offer broadband and new technologies to their citizens. Please take action today to help connect more people in North Carolina.

Thanks for all you do,

Ira Horowitz
Online Community Organizer
Free Press
www.freepress.net

1. Learn more about the Community Broadband Act of 2007: www.freepress.net/press/release.php?id=258

2. Other cities and towns are taking action to bring broadband to their residents. Learn more at: www.freepress.net/communityinternet

3. Take Action to support Public Access TV in North Carolina. Urge your state representative to support community media bill S. 1068: http://action.freepress.net/campaign/nc_peg

4. Read Shooting the Messenger, a Free Press report dispelling myths about broadband in America: www.freepress.net/docs/shooting_the_messenger.pdf
[PDF]

I don’t usually post entire action emails, I get A LOT of them, but this one is so important to NC and has lots of good info and links. That PDF called ‘Shooting the Messenger’ has really important info. It describes just how companies like AT&T and Time Warner operate. It is why we must work hard.

New US Senate Bill could Protect NC Broadband

The wonderful website MuniWireless reports about a US Senate Bill called the Community Broadband Act of 2007.

The bill, the Community Broadband Act of 2007, protects consumers on two fronts: It prohibits states from adopting legislation, like the bill pending in North Carolina, which denies local governments the right to deploy municipal broadband projects; It also addresses the concerns of private providers by forbidding municipal providers from discriminating against private competition.

The bill also requires municipalities offering broadband services to comply with Federal telecommunications laws and regulations, just as private providers must do. It also encourages public-private partnerships and insists on public notification and hearings before a local government deploys a muni broadband system.

This Bill reminds me of legislation that was enacted to help rural communities install electricity service. In 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration. In 1936 the Rural Electrification Act was created by Rep John E. Rankin and Sen. George William Norris. (source 1, source 2)

Check out this part about the REA from 1935:

The REA’s task was to promote electrification in rural areas, which in the 1930s rarely were provided with electricity due to the unwillingness of power companies to serve farmsteads. America lagged immensely behind European countries in the field of rural electrification. Private electricity utilities argued that the government had no right to compete with or regulate private enterprise, despite many of these utilities having refused to extend their lines to rural areas, claiming lack of potential profitability as the reason. The fact that private power companies set rural rates that were four times as high as city rates made this claim a self-fulfilling prophecy. Few farmers could afford the excessive power bills.[1] In fact, under the REA program, no direct government competition to private enterprise took place. Instead, REA made loans available to local electrification cooperatives, which operated the lines and distributed the electricity. By 1939 the REA served 288,000 households with electricity, prompting private business to extend their services into the countryside as well, and to lower their rates. By the end of the decade, forty percent of rural homes had power, up from around 10% in 1930.

Sound familiar? Just replace power company with broadband company. Here is what’s going on now. Local Broadband companies are unwilling to serve some areas, the US lags behind the rest of the world in the amount and quality of broadband service, Telcos complain that government should not compete with private enterprise, Telcos claim serving everyone isn’t profitable, and the high cost of mediocre broadband service could be reducing demand. All of this is happening in the 21st century.

One of the big difference I see between the legislation of 1930 and 2007 is the lack of funding of community broadband by the Federal government. My research on this particular point is not exhaustive but I don’t know of any large Federal program like the REA for local broadband coops. (please correct me) The Community Broadband Act of 2007 is a great start though. I hope it will allow us to spend more time creating networks instead of defending the right to build them.

The Community Broadband Act of 2007 [PDF]

Join NC Public Broadband List

Not long after I learned about HB1587, the bad NC House bill, I started a Google Group called NC Public Broadband. Its a email list with the goal of keeping people in the loop about what’s going on in the fight to protect community broadband. Its mainly an announce list but you can respond to emails. We can also upload files to share. Like a PDF of legislation or an Excel Spreadsheet of Legislative contact info.

Our ‘victory’ against HB1587 is a short lived one. Its is but one battle in a long war with “Goliath and all his cousins”. (As the Mayor Bruce Rose of Wilson, NC put it so succinctly.) I cringe at using a war analogy because of its seriousness but it is apt. Major telecommunications companies are spending a lot of money on lawyers and lobbyist to prevent the public from owning their own infrastructure. Through out the Nation they are using dishonest tactics, like making compromises in legislation then turning around and suing local governments. We can do something about this. How? By using the very resources they would take away from us. The Internet and all its tools.

I hope that this list will support the creation of a grassroots community that will monitor legislation, promote the creation of public broadband projects, and help us learn from one another.

So if you live in North Carolina and care about public access to the Internet please subscribe. (FYI – You need a Google Account) If you need help joining please contact me.

HB1587 Changed, Sent to Study Committee

From many reports of those who attended this mornings NC House Finance Committee meeting it appears we dodged a bullet. HB1587 was changed and a new one took its place. The new bill calls for a committee to “study local government owned and operated communication services.”

Also I heard,

The Senior Chair of the Committee, Luebke, spoke up and thanked the “tremendous grass roots effort” which led to “this initiative.” He added: “Citizens have made a difference in this case.”

To me this proves we can make a difference. But I remain vigilant. Big telco will not give up. Nor will their paid lobbyist and lawyers. Neither should we!

Here is the full text. (Thanks to Mark Turner for extruding this from the pdf and sharing it)

GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF NORTH CAROLINA
SESSION 2007

HOUSE BILL 1587
Committee Substitute Favorable 6/7/07
PROPOSED COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE H1587-CSTD-31 [v.1]

7/19/2007 6:20:15 PM

Short Title: The Local Gov’t Fair Competition Act.

April 19, 2007

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT AUTHORIZING THE JOINT LEGISLATIVE UTILITY REVIEW
COMMITTEE TO STUDY LOCAL GOVERNMENT OWNED AND OPERATED
COMMUNICATIONS SERVICES.

The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:

SECTION 1. The Joint Legislative Utility Review Committee may study local government owned and operated communication services. The Committee may propose legislation, if appropriate, to regulate the operation of local government owned and operated communications services. In making this study, the Committee shall consider:

1. The adequacy of coverage of communications services offered by currently private providers across the state, including rural and other high costs areas.
2. The adequacy of communications services currently offered by local governments.
3. The private and public costs and the benefits of providing communications service through a private communications service provider compared to a local government owned communications service provider, including the effect on existing and future jobs, actual economic development prospects, tax-base growth, education, and public health.
4. The effect on competition with privately owned communications services of local government owned and operated communication services.

SECTION 2. The Committee may make an interim report of its findings and recommendations to the 2007 General Assembly, Regular Session 2008, and shall submit a final report to the 2009 Session of the General Assembly.

SECTION 3. The Legislative Services Officer shall allocate funds appropriated to the General Assembly for the expenditures of the Joint Legislative Utility Review Committee in conducting this study.

SECTION 4. This act is effective when it becomes law.

Here is the new HB1587 – Proposed Committee Substitute Favorable 6/7/07 [PDF]

Its important to note in Section there is a timeline. This gives us more time to build our grassroots movement to protect municipal broadband.

Overall I’m pretty happy with the outcome of todays meeting, but am connivence we have a lot of work yet to do. In another post I will share what that could be and write some analysis of our mission to protect public broadband. Please leave your ideas in the comments.

I want to thank Sally Greene and Mark Kleinschmidt for going to meetings, staying concerned, passing a resolution, and working hard to stop HB1587. Also a big thanks to the Chapel Hill Town Council, the Carrboro Board of Alderman, and the Orange County Commissioners for passing resolutions against old HB1587. Your voices really made a big difference. PLUS thank you Rep. Insko, Rep. Hackney, and all the Reps on the Finance Committee. THANK YOU for changing this bill!

YESH!

HB1597 Before NC House Finance Committee Tue at 9am

Just when we thought this bill would not survive this legislative session it appears that it will be heard tomorrow (July 25) in the House finance committee. (See bellow)

If you have a minute please call your Representative and tell them to vote NO on HB1587. ESPECIALLY if you live in Durham. Rep. Luebke is the Senior Chair of the Finance committee!

Rep. Luebke’s Phone numbers:
Phone – RAL
919-733-7663

PHONE – Local
919-286-0269

To learn more see email bellow and goto www.saynotohb1587.com and read my posts on HB1587.

HB1587 – Finance Committee-plain (XLS) – Here is a spread sheet with all the Finance committee members contact info.

NORTH CAROLINA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
COMMITTEE MEETING NOTICE
AND
BILL SPONSOR NOTIFICATION
2007-2008 SESSION

You are hereby notified that the Committee on FINANCE will meet as follows:

DAY & DATE:
Tuesday, July 24, 2007

TIME:
9:00 a.m.

LOCATION:

Room 544, LOB

The following bills will be considered (Bill #, Short Title, and Bill Sponsor):

HB 206 – BRONZE STAR SPECIAL PLATE CHANGES – Rep. Cleveland

HB 964 – EXPAND DEFINITION OF HOME CARE SERVICES – Reps. Clary, Farmer-Butterfield, and Earle

HB 1381 – RESP. CARE BD./INSPECTIONS/FEES/ENDORSEMENTS – Rep. Tolson

HB 1587 – THE LOCAL GOV’T FAIR COMPETITION ACT – Reps. Saunders, Holliman, Brubaker, & Howard

HB 1652 – SPECIAL PLATE FOR E-911 TELECOMMUNICATORS – Rep. Justice

SB 728 – MEDIATION IN DISTRICT CRIMINAL COURTS – Sen. Hartsell

SB 1240 – SALES TAX EXEMPTION FOR BAKED GOODS – Sen. Kerr

Respectfully,
Representatives Luebke, Gibson, Wainwright, & Weiss
Chairs

Tell Gov. Easley HB1587 is Bad

NCPIRG has a email campaign to ask Governor Easley to oppose HB1587. Public opposition is really mounting. Its time for our Governor to get involved. Lets ask him to stop HB1587. Here is some example language for your email from NCPIRG.

Dear Governor Easley,

North Carolinians need access to fast and reliable Internet service for communication and economic development.

Please oppose any legislation, including H1587, which will limit access to the Internet.

Sincerely,

You can use the form on the NCPIRG website if you like. But I recommend a phone call or physical letter. Elected officials sometimes ignore mass emails. Its much harder to ignore a phone call. You can even call after hours and leave a message. They’ll still listen to it.

Gov. Easley’s Website
1-800-662-7952 valid in North Carolina only
(919)733-4240, or (919)733-5811.

Governor Michael F. Easley
Office of the Governor
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-0301

Fax: (919)715-3175 or (919)733-2120

Gov. Easley’s email contact form is here.