Time Warner Cable has decided to place North Carolina on the frontlines of their war on consumer broadband. Greensboro, NC was selected by Time Warner for it’s trials of data caps and pricing based upon usage in addition to existing tiers defined by connection speeds.
Now Time Warner seeks to legistlate away municipal broadband networks deployed by city governments like the Greenlight fiber network in Wilson, NC. Wilson borrowed $28 million to build out it’s own fiber to the home network which also serves as backhaul for free Wi-Fi in the downtown area. Wilson residents enjoy the fastest network connection in North Carolina with a 20 Mbps symmetrical service for $59.95. At the same price point, TWC’s RoadRunner Internet service delivers a variable downlink up to 10 Mbps and uplink up to 512 kbps.
The bill ironically titled Level Playing Field (SB1004/HB1252) seeks to punish municipal networks by requiring regulations, redirecting city tax revenues, auditing and reporting requirements driving up the costs of operating and offerng a communications service. Time Warner wants to restrict competition and ensure the continuation of a scarcity of bandwidth, rather than face an abundance of service options for consumers.
TWC lobbied for the same legislation in North Carolina 2 years ago in 2007, but the effort died in committee. This time it has passed the first of three House committees it must navigate. Last week it emerged from the Science and Technology Committee and passed on the Public Utilities where it must pass to move on to Finance. The next step in the process would be a vote in the House. Some have suggested that the House version could be up for a vote before May 1st.
With the Mayor of Greensboro considering options following TWC’s determined effort to charge usage cap pricing tiers, the company wants to ensure that other cities can’t deploy their own networks. One provision of the bill prevents a municipality from offering service to it’s citizens at a loss. This means that should a city decide to provide free Wi-Fi to it’s residents it would incur the same costs and regulatory burdens of a for fee service. In essence, TWC wants to ensure the duopoly it shares with the local phone company and thwart any additional competition or options for consumers. Their plans to reassert data caps is clear in the following video. Note, TWC is taking it’s cue from wireless carriers (e.g., Verizon Wireless, ATT Wireless) on overcharging and customer abuse.
From the organization’s website, the e-NC Authority is responsible for the following:
- To track the availability of high-speed Internet services in each county across the state
- To advocate for high-speed Internet access at competitive prices to all North Carolinians
- To significantly increase the numbers of individuals, businesses and organizations who own computers and computer devices and who subscribe to the Internet
- To establish telecenters located in the state’s most economically distressed areas
- To establish a Web site to provide North Carolinians with complete information on Internet and telecommunications services