After North Carolina Law Bans Municipal Broadband, One ISP Gives Gigabit Connections Away

from the shooting-yourself-in-the-foot dept

Back in August, we noted how the FCC lost an incredibly important case regarding municipal broadband. In short, the FCC tried to dismantle state-level protectionist laws, written by incumbent ISPs, that hamstring towns and cities from building their own broadband networks or striking public/private partnerships for broadband — even in areas those same incumbent ISPs refused to upgrade. The FCC had tried to claim that its congressional mandate to ensure “even and timely” broadband deployment allowed it to strip away any part of these laws that hindered broadband expansion.

But the courts argued that the FCC lacks this authority, forcing the agency to acknowledge it was giving up on this fight. But there are still countless municipal broadband providers in the 19 states that have passed these laws that can’t launch or expand existing service lest they run face-first into a law written by Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, or CenturyLink lawyers. And there are millions of customers that are incredibly frustrated by the lack of broadband market competition, resulting in the expensive, inconsistent broadband connections most of us “enjoy” today.

In North Carolina, it took Time Warner Cable four attempts to convince the state legislature to pass such a protectionist law. The FCC’s failure to dismantle this law resulted in one municipal ISP, Greenlight, facing the specter of having to disconnect customers in a neighboring county given the ban on selling municipal broadband. In response, the ISP has decided not to sell broadband to these neighbors at all, instead announcing this week that it would be giving away gigabit service for free until it can figure out what to do next:

“Wilson officials voted Thursday to provide free Greenlight Community Broadband services to existing customers outside the county on a limited basis until efforts are successful in overturning the law that prohibits fee-based municipal broadband beyond the county line.

?While the short-term fix is not perfect, it was the only alternative we had to disconnecting our neighbors,? said Wilson Mayor Bruce Rose. ?Taking broadband service from the people of Pinetops would have been a terrible blow, especially when they are still recovering from Hurricane Matthew.”

And while that’s quite a feel good story and a nice move by Greenlight, the reality is there’s nobody coming to the rescue of these states any time soon in the wake of the FCC’s loss. Incumbent telecom providers have such a stranglehold over state legislatures, they’re being allowed to quite literally write the law. In most instances, the states that pass these laws wind up being among the least connected and competitive broadband states in the union. That leaves the only solution being to vote these beholden lawmakers out of office.

The problem is that ISPs have historically been successful in framing this as a partisan issue, one in which the mean ol’ government is competing unfairly with the innocent daisies in private industry. This narrative usually involves framing all municipal broadband efforts as unmitigated financial disasters, while trying to claim these laws are necessary to protect poor, naive citizens from themselves. As such efforts in Congress to pass new laws banning state protectionist laws have consistently been scuttled, in part thanks to a public voter base that has been tricked into rooting against its own best self-interest.

The reality however is that this isn’t a partisan issue at all. In fact, most municipal broadband networks are being built in Conservative areas with the support of Conservative voters. As these voters grow more and more disenfranchised by the existing duopoly status quo, it’s getting harder and harder to convince them that letting AT&T, Verizon and Comcast buy protectionist, anti-competitive state law is perfectly fine, while building local, better broadband networks that dramatically improve local quality of life is the very worst sort of villainy.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: greenlight

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “After North Carolina Law Bans Municipal Broadband, One ISP Gives Gigabit Connections Away”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I wonder if the FCC has the power to ask why with the billions looted from the Universal Service Fund, there are some people who can’t even get dialup.

One would think with billions that there would be a common tier of service available to everyone, rather than money being spent to make sure these beneficiary’s of a system to promote connecting everyone aren’t passing laws to lock people out of being connected.

Perhaps if we demanded that Congress people are limited to the lowest available tier of service in their districts, they might take notice how those they allegedly serve aren’t being served. Imagine what they might think if they had to live like us mere mortals who don’t get the special Congresscritter rates & services.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Perhaps if we demanded that Congress”

whoa whoa whoa… tap the damn brakes!

When was the last time America did anything about congress? I don’t think it has happened in my life time. The some old career politicians are continually voted into office.

I tell you what, you keep your nose up the ass of YOUR local corrupt politician and I will keep my nose up the ass of MY own. As long as mine keeps giving me what I want, I don’t care if you like them or not. I do not care if they are corrupt as fuck or not, I dot not care what they have to sell down the river to get me what I want. As long as they do, they get to keep their seat in my state or district.

I want corruption in government because it serves me! I don’t give a fuck what else happens!

and if you think I am fucking jokes, shit no! This IS AMERICA!

wiserabbit says:

both stories

it would be nice if we could get some coverage on these stories in conjunction with coverage on the One Touch Make Ready (OTMR) stories so that consumers could see both sides of this game.

the monolithic incumbents keeping the local towns and cities *and* any non-government entities out of their fiefdom much to all of our distress.

ANON says:

Cant Trust Government Service???

Back around 1999, I used to read Jerry Pournelle’s CHaos Manor and marvel at how complex DSL and such services seemed to be, even in the LA area. Then our Canadian provincial Telco decided to replace our dial-up with high speed DSL. How complicated would this be??? I went down to the local office, picked up my modem – and went home and plugged it in. It didn’t work! A little while later, I figured out I could not run DSL on the “phone out” plug of my dial-up modem. Plug it into the wall, and it worked first time. Run the login program, and for a decade I enjoyed government (crown corporation) DSL service with zero hassles, pretty much rock solid service, and… pretty cheap. So – government service, high speed internet, rock solid, several hundred miles from the big city in a town of less than 25,000 people. Seriously, USA, what’s your problem?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Cant Trust Government Service???

Remember that there where a lot of repeaters coils and other infrastructure that was literally in the way.

Regular telephone only needs about 400~3000 hz worth of analog transmission data to carry voice. To improve the distance the coils and repeaters would extend and clean the line of noise, which means stripping everything that could operate in frequencies beyond that which voice used. Since DSL used frequencies outside of that range they were hampered by these old relics still sitting around the telco lines.

And remember we lead the way for internet, it is real easy to pick on the people doing it all first without having the best clue. Those that came after us were able to build better infrastructure by learning from our mistakes and not repeating them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Cant Trust Government Service???

incubents that don’t want to spend any money on providing the service they are paid millions in tax rebates for. When they can instead spend thousands bribing those in charge to look the other way when they refuse to provide the service they are paid to provide.

The usual corruption.

Coises (profile) says:

Re: If you live in that area...

My thought as well. If there is a way to do it without running afoul of the law, a community group in the affected area could set up a way of easily making donations that can be clearly counted to show that the community is willing to pay enough to maintain the service, even when they aren’t forced to do so.

Wouldn’t that be a kick in the teeth to TWC and friends.

Joe says:

The infamous ISP manipulative act.

I can understand a decision of the courts saying the FCC not having regulatory power over State gov. This helps in minimzing the often overreaching and unnecessary powers of Federalist agendas. After all, whats good for one section of the country and its tax paying citizens, may be horrible for another part of the country. The best representation anyone can have, is here at home. Where the citizens are provided with the laws that are in our best interest, provided under the constitution. We are a Republic of States under One Nation, after all. Not the other way around!

Local and State representation, is where the fight has to be brought to. The ISPs have immense finances, tools and representation via lobbying and special interest groups. As do just about all big business, per their own interest. Citizens need to organize and develop the same strategies when things seem unbalanced for a long time.

We all should have benefits of a free market when it helps us all. In fact, no form of business practices should exist in this Nation. That ultimately oppress its taxpaying citizens, in favor of personal interest! The monopolies that don’t exist with ISP’s, really do exists. In the form of non competition, manipulated by costs! How many ISP customers complain about, deceptive practices. Yet have no other choices for lack of competition. This is the worst non policy, in my opinion.

Local and State gov. Should impliment better policy and law for the benefits of its people first, then direct attention to business. Single ISPs shouldnt be allowed to provide service in areas. Policy should be set up to require several or more providers. Lines should be installed before development completion. Inspection of equipment and services guaranteeing what people are paying for, should also be realized. Fast profiting from ISP and many Technology sector businesses, has only proven to benefit shareholders while downtrodding substantial majorities with higher cost, bad services and massive job losses!

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...