One of the great things about a “Free Market” is that if you don’t like the company you are getting services from, you can always go somewhere else.
Well, except if you’re dealing with Internet Service Providers and live in North Carolina. Then you’re pretty much screwed. You see, Governor Bev Purdue says that she will neither sign nor veto H.129. Now for those who do not know, H.129 is a bill that would put restrictions on cities that currently provide internet service to its citizens (Wilson, Salisbury, Morganton, Davidson, and Mooresville), and would significantly hinder any efforts by other cities to pursue their own municipal internet services. The obvious winners in this action are Time-Warner cable and AT&T, who have spent a lot of money
improving their services, er, buying politicians, er, let’s just say, they’ve spent a lot of money over this.
Some of the provisions in H.129 state that cities:
- Shall provide nondiscriminatory access to private communications service providers on a first-come, first-served basis to rights-of-way, poles, or conduits owned, leased, or operated by the city unless the facilities have insufficient capacity for the access and additional capacity cannot reasonably be added to the facilities.
- Shall not use city resources that are not allocated for cost accounting purposes to the city-owned communications service to promote city-owned communications service in comparison to private services or, directly or indirectly, require city employees, officers, or contractors to purchase city services
- Shall not subsidize the provision of communications service with funds from any other noncommunications service, operation, or other revenue source, including any funds or revenue generated from electric, gas, water, sewer, or garbage services.
- Shall not price any communications service below the cost of providing the service, including any direct or indirect subsidies received by the city-owned communications service provider and allocation of costs associated with any shared use of buildings, equipment, vehicles, and personnel with other city departments.
The bill ensures that companies like Time Warner Cable and AT&T will continue to be the dominant players in most North Carolina markets, even with higher pricing and speeds that often lag far behind what cities themselves can provide for its residents.
Never mind the fact that these municipalities decided to vote to band together and provide its own municipal services. And why did they do that? Because the Internet service providers were dragging their feet and underserving the market. The community did not have a choice that was fast and inexpensive, so they created one. And because they are offering their community an alternative that is better, the telecoms run and pay off politicians to curtail it. Because as we all know, municipalities should not have an “unfair advantage” over the private sector. In this case the unfair advantage is a service that is better, faster and cheaper. You know, those same arguments that are used when a government decides to outsource a municipal service to a private company.
Funny how that works.