Perdue criticizes, but won't veto, municipal broadband limits

Staff writerMay 20, 2011 

— Gov. Bev Perdue Friday criticized a bill that restricts municipalities from building and operating broadband Internet systems, but said she would not use her veto power to block it.

Instead, she urged the legislature to reconsider the issue, which had been pushed through by the cable and telephone lobby.

“I will neither sign nor veto this will,” Perdue said in a statement. “Instead, I call on the General Assembly to revisit this issue and adopt rules that not only promote fairness but also allow for the greatest number of high quality and affordable broadband options for consumers.”

If a governor does not veto a bill, it will automatically become law. By not signing it, Perdue is symbolically signaling her displeasure.

The governor said there is a need to establish rules to prevent cities and towns from having unfair advantage over private companies. But she said she was concerned that the bill would decrease the number of choices available to consumers.

The bill would require towns and cities that set up broadband systems to hold public hearings, financially separate their operations from the rest of government operations, and bar from them offering below cost services. They also couldn't borrow money for the project without voter approval in a referendum.

The five cities now offer the service – Wilson, Salisbury, Morganton, Davidson, and Mooresville – would be largely exempt.

The measure was opposed by the N.C. League of Municipalities, which argued that towns in less populated areas should be able to better broadband services than private companies are willing to offer in order to attract industry.

Time-Warner Cable, which has been pushing for the legislation since 2005, has argued that it ought not to face competition from tax-paid sources.

Time-Warner's political action committee has contributed at least $214,000 to state candidates since 2008, most of them state legislative candidates, according to state campaign finance records.

It contributed $3,000 to Perdue's gubernatorial campaign in 2008. Time-Warner also contributed $10,000 to the Democratic Governor's Association fund raising event that Perdue hosted last April at the Umstead Hotel.

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