FCC OKs Wilson Greenlight broadband expansion

Published February 27, 2015

by WRAL Techwire, February 26, 2015.

The Federal Communications Commission is siding with Wilson against North Carolina, voting Thursday that the city's Greenlight broadband service can be sold outside the city limits in a victory for so-called municipal broadband services.

State lawmakers four years ago placed limits on cities and counties offering their own Internet services.

The decision also is seen as a setback to cable companies that have fought against municipal broadband efforts.

"This is an important moment for communities in North Carolina, Tennessee, and other states that have barriers to local investments in advanced communications networks," Jim Baller, the lead counsel for Wilson in the dispute, said in a statement. "Not only has the Commission confirmed that it has authority to remove such barriers, but it has also made clear that local Internet choice is critically important to the vitality of our communities and to America’s global competitiveness.”

The City of Wilson also embraced the decision, saying it will allow rural areas to get the super-fast Internet service many seek to remain competitive in the global economy.

"By its action today, the FCC has empowered local North Carolina communities to do whatever it takes for all of our citizens to realize the benefits of access to essential Gigabit infrastructure in our beautiful state," Greenlight General Manager Will Aycock said in a statement. "All possibilities are now on the table, whether through public-private partnerships or municipally-owned broadband networks, to ensure North Carolina’s businesses and residents remain competitive in the global economy."

Baller also represented the city of Chattanooga, Tenn., which faced similar state restrictions after building its own fiber network.

North Carolina is among 19 states that have laws against cities and counties setting up their own broadband infrastructure, and President Barack Obama had said earlier this year he wants the FCC to override those laws.

Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee immediately drafted legislation that would prevent the FCC from overriding state and local municipal broadband laws.

“It is disturbing, yet not surprising, that the FCC and Chairman (Tom) Wheeler are attempting to deny the sovereign right of states to make their own laws,” Tillis said in a statekment. “After witnessing how some local governments wasted taxpayer dollars and accumulated millions in debt through poor decision-making, the legislatures of states like North Carolina and Tennessee passed common-sense, bipartisan laws that protect hardworking taxpayers and maintain the fairness of free-market competition."

North Carolina Congresswoman Renee Ellmers and congressmen David Rouzer, Robert Pittenger and Mark Meadows are co-sponsors of the bill.

Frustrated by its inability to attract Internet service providers to the city, Wilson leaders borrowed $35 million in 2008 to build Greenlight, saying the service would be crucial to the city's economic future. Aycock said it has helped recruit new business to Wilson.

Various groups wanting more broadband access hailed the decision.

"Cities can’t compete in a global economy without robust broadband infrastructure, Joshua Stager, policy counsel for New America’s Open Technology Institute, said in a statement. "Local government can play a critical role in network development, particularly in areas where incumbent providers are not meeting local needs. Indeed, our research has consistently found that some of the fastest and most affordable broadband in America comes from community networks. All localities should be free to make these kinds of smart investments in their own infrastructure."

"Bandwidth should not be a barrier to innovation, nor outdated regulation a barrier to investment," Heather Gold, president of the Fiber to the Home Council Americas, said in a statement.

Read more at http://wraltechwire.com/fcc-grants-wilson-to-sell-high-speed-internet-outside-city-limits/14474547/#3c76TmRP1s5VJBA7.99

February 27, 2015 at 11:09 am
Norm Kelly says:

'President Barack Obama had said earlier this year he wants the FCC to override those laws'. Of course the occupier wants the FCC to override those laws, he's a socialist. This concentrates more power in the hands of government, where it does not belong. Has anyone explained how allowing government to INTERFERE in the broadband market will be good for anyone? And, yes, I used the word 'interfere' on purpose. Kinda like when the central planners interfered in the health insurance market; drove up costs, reduced options, removed doctors from individual choices, removed hospitals from individual choices, reduced the number of policies to choose from, and created a specific time-frame each year for signing up for coverage. All to the benefit and advantage of the individual! Naturally!

'it will allow rural areas to get the super-fast Internet service many seek to remain competitive in the global economy'. Ok, another important question to ask: for years we've all been paying money into some central planner fund that's supposed to pay PRIVATE carriers to bring technology to rural areas. Where has that money gone? If it's now necessary for 'rural areas' to implement their own Internet service, what happened to the billions that we've all paid in over the years? Is that the money that will be used for local governments to create their own broadband service? Wouldn't this be considered unfair competition, even by the most socialist democrat pol? It is unfair competition for those of us who think, who love freedom, who believe in the Constitution, who understand that socialism fails every where every time. What part of unfair competition makes sense to libs? What market is better because of government interference? How will government getting involved in broadband delivery improve the market? Will speeds be faster, more reliable than they are now? Really? Which part of government interference replaced dial-up slow service with always on high speed service? Which government interference is driving the change from 3Mbps to 25Mbps, and beyond? Which part of government interference is driving fiber around the nation? How will government interference HELP drive the move toward fiber & gigabit? Can any of you socialists who believe the government SHOULD be in the private business answer any of this? Or is it just that you despise private business and prefer socialism? Why?

'... citizens to realize the benefits of access to essential Gigabit infrastructure'. Google fiber isn't moving into NC? Really? When exactly did that change? AT&T fiber isn't expanding in NC? Really? CenturyLink & TWC aren't expanding their broadband, ultra-highspeed networks around the state? Wow! I've missed these disastrous developments! What a backwards state we live in! Except reality is quite different from what socialists who want government to expand into every market want us to believe. And when did access to Gigabit infrastructure become 'essential'? What exactly is 'essential' about gigabit broadband? What part of private business providing this service is irrelevant to government interference supporters? And, again, what happened to the money we've all paid in for this service to be provided by private businesses? Is the government collecting this money from all of us and NOT using it to pay private companies to expand service? Another government ponzy scheme?

When local governments decide to build their own networks, do they change the permitting regulations and other regulations to allow themselves to do what they want? Do they make the rules different for themselves compared to the rules in place for private business? How do these local communities pay off the debt incurred to build this infrastructure? If Wilson borrowed $35million, how are they paying it back? Is it a regular municipal bond that is paid out of taxes? Is it a business loan where the proceeds of the business are used to pay off the loan? Who is tracking the separation of dollars that come in from the socialist business versus regular tax dollars? Are my taxes paying for this new service that I'll end up paying more if I CHOOSE not to use the socialist network? Will I pay for my (example only!) AT&T Uverse service as well as paying for the bonds through taxes? So, if I CHOOSE not to use the socialist network, will I end up being double billed?

Who has asked these questions, and how have they been answered? Isn't this important to know BEFORE I endorse ANOTHER socialist move by government?

February 28, 2015 at 9:42 am
Richard Bunce says:

This only works if the government service competes on a level field with private services. From the Wilson Broadband Fund budget document (http://www.wilsonnc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/2014-019Broadband-Fund.pdf) it appears that the service is self funding... at least the annual operation and maintenance budget. What is not clear is how the loans used to build the system are secured, general fund revenue or only broadband service revenue? It is also not clear how the system is insured, again from the broadband revenue or overall Town government insurance. It is not clear if the government service is paying all taxes, including Town and County property taxes for tax parcels upon which it has facilities... are these collocated with other Town functions so the taxes and insurance are paid out of the general fund? How about regulations? Did the Town allow itself to set up the required infrastructure by changing zoning or use existing Town property already zoned to accommodate to which a private broadband service provider would not have access. Before Local governments should be allowed by the State to provide such services that compete with the private sector the Local government should be required to prove that they are not giving themselves an advantage. The FCC is not concerned with that... it is by the government, for the government, of the government.

March 6, 2015 at 10:27 am
Ron Frisbie says:

With lots of areas not having access to the net,how are these areas to create economic growth.all industries need the net to sell.these areas had no internet providers,due to the population of the area.dial up is not an option with multiple users. Speeds are slow and will choke up with more users.this is exactly what small towns need to do to have access .there service will be faster than most internet providers.