Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why bill H129 is bad for cable internet....and you

-- Image Source: IndyWeek

Our state is not looking so good this week.

A bill called H129 ("the Level Playing Field/Local Gov't Competition" act) passed the N.C. House of Representatives Monday by a count of 81-37. The bill's sponsor, Marilyn Avila, a Republican from Wake County told a Raleigh TV station that the bill protect businesses from what she called "predatory" local governments that want to build their own ISPs.

Excuse me?

This bill will make it really hard to provide competition to the big cable company and make it really hard for customers to have choice and make it really easy for the big cable company to set prices where they want.

Put simply, the bill says that the local government-owned cable company is unfairly competing against the big guys. Here's the catch. The local guy often offers better service at a cheaper price.

What's wrong with a little competition? That's good for consumers.

Orange County democrat Bill Faison told a Raleigh TV station that "this bill will make it practically impossible for cities to provide a fundamental service. Where's the bill to govern Time Warner? Let's be clear about whose bill this is. This is Time Warner's bill. You need to know who you're doing this for."

Ding. Ding. Ding.

Some of these smaller cable broadband networks run by locals offer faster speeds than the big boys for cheaper prices. And at a time when some behemoths like AT&T DSL are placing broadband data caps on some customers, the locals are lowering prices and telling your to surf and download to your heart's content.

In Chattanooga, Tenn., the city-owned EPB Fiber Optics will deliver uber-fast 30 Mbps internet, plus 194 channels of standard and HD plus video on demand services for $105 per month. Want to add phone? That'll be $120. And if you want, you can get delirious internet speeds, up to 1,000 Mbps.

Sound good to anyone out there?

In Wilson, NC, the Greenlight Community Network offers upload and download speeds of 100 Mpbs for $149 (most cable companies that even offer 100 down, only give you 5 up). In fact, all of Greenlight's options offer the same speeds up and down, meaning when you're sending email attachments or big picture or movie files, they move faster.

Greenlight offers tons of bundle packages running from $99 to $169 for "the ultimate" bundle of phone, TV with movie channels and internet. Locally in Charlotte, Time Warner cable offers 100 Mbps internet for $99 per month and has a "Signature Home Bundle" of its premier phone, internet and TV service for $199 for the first 12 months. The price increases after that and it does not include movie channels.

TWC has cheaper options, but going through Greenlight and TWC's offerings, I think given the choice here, which I don't have, I'd get Greenlight.

And as you wonder about this bill passing through our state government, also consider a study by GigaOM recently that showed our state holding seven of 10 places among the 10 most expensive broadband cities in the United States.

H129 has a lot of specifics -- requiring public hearings for cities that want to build their own networks and opportunities for private companies to offer proposals -- and has been so controversial that Raleigh, the state capitol, has come out against it.

Now, the state senate will decide whether to pass H129 and move the bill to the governor's desk. It's getting close to law.

Let's hope someone stops it before it gets there.


Anonymous said...

But, but, it's that evil government. We can't have that especially if it's good for the middle class. We must protect our wealthy.

Bobby said...

Embarq and Time Warner more or less laughed at Wilson when Wilson's government asked them to amp up speeds to they could get new businesses (Wilson was a textile and tobacco town, and still is, but those are obviously struggling). In response to being neglected, Wilson founded Greenlight.

It's an example of a government providing a service where the private sector literally refuses to. It also keeps Embarq and TWC from jacking up rates in Wilson.

Josh said...

Great piece Langston. I didn't know about this issue but read your piece and google'd some more. This is outraegous. I wish we had choice here in Charlotte. I pay TWC 249 for Signature Home right now and it's schedule to go up in 10 months. Of course, in 10 months, I'm leaving. Service stinks. DVR is buggy. Only good thing is they come to fix it faster. Only it breaks again. To think I left DISH for this.

Anonymous said...

Why is this not the lead story today?
We all know it rained today, but few people know what TWC and their lackeys in state government are ramming through the statehouse.

Anonymous said...

Hang on a sec here. One question I don't see answered: How is it possible that Greenlight can offer high-speed Internet so cheaply? Is it because they're just doing a better job, or are they being subsidized by taxpayer dollars from everyone in town, even people who don't subscribe to Greenlight?

I'm not defending Time Warner. What I *am* doing is questioning whether Greenlight is another government enterprise that forces everyone to pay for something that only some people use. If so, then they need to increase their rates to the point where they break even on costs vs. revenues. Government programs that tax all for the benefit of a few are undesirable.

Anonymous said...

This needs to get pushed up to a front page story. And details on how to contact Senate reps added. Great job, otherwise!

Bobby said...

2:51, Greenlight was funded through bond measures. According to the city, in September of 2010 Greenlight became cash positive, it isn't costing taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Sorta like when GovCo stepped in an broke up ATT eh? Oh that worked out real well. try getting customer support when your carrier has to use another carriers lines. there isn't any. GovCo should stay the hell out.

Anonymous said...

encee said:
How does breaking up an monopoly like AT&T (which received bi-partisan support) relate to this story?

Anonymous said...

Great story.I wish we Rates for.pushing.this through
Must have been a nice big fat check they

Bobby said...

3:45, What in the world does the break up of AT&T have to do with Wilson providing a service that the private sector flat-out REFUSED to provide?

Anonymous said...

Wow -- so much misinformation in your post. Do you really believe the answer is government-run broadband, TV and telephone? What Wilson did was decide to offer a service that was already being provided by private business -- and it's done so on the backs of captive utility ratepayers. Google "MI-Connection" in your backyard and see how that is working for the citizens of Davidson and Mooresville.

Anonymous said...

8:29. If Greenlight is cash positive(per 3:27), then how is it "on the back" of anyone?
Perhaps they can offer internet so cheaply because they're not making huge profits and overpaying their executives. Just who are these Representatives representing with this vote..? Sounds like its the cable companies, not the citizens.