In a recent letter, Sen. Thom Tillis takes credit for protecting taxpayers when he should take the blame for their high internet and cable bills. In 2011 with Tillis’ help, New York companies shut down North Carolina cities’ efforts to provide high-speed internet to residents. Everyone knows that the information highway is the future.
The phone companies no longer provide just phone service – they are now telecommunication companies. They are smart. They know their future is tied to the internet. And they are practical.
When Wilson sought better high-speed internet for its residents, the “telecommunications company” with a territorial franchise to serve Wilson said “no.” So the residents of Wilson used their municipality to provide the service, just like they use it to provide any other service the residents might need. The “telecommunication company” then tried to compete by cutting the rates for Wilson folks while keeping the rates up in the Triangle. When this did not recapture the business, it came up with a brilliant plan. If it could not compete with Wilson, then it would make sure other cities did not get to provide the service.
It introduced legislation to block residents from using their municipal governments to provide high-speed internet services. It even tried to hide its power grab by misnaming its bill. It was called the “Level Playing Field” bill. The bill was carefully crafted to keep towns and cities out of the high-speed internet business. It created a completely unleveled playing field in favor of the near monopolistic telecommunication companies.
Many of us in the legislature joined forces with then-Speaker Joe Hackney to protect residents of cities and towns across this state and allow them the freedom to use their local municipal governments to provide much needed high-speed internet service. We were able to block the wealthy New York companies from taking away North Carolina residents’ rights through 2010.
When the Republicans gained control of the House and chose Tillis as speaker in 2011, the floodgates were opened to big, out-of-state businesses to take away our residents’ rights under the false flag of protecting taxpayer rights.
One of the first pieces of anti-resident, pro-big business legislation to run through the House was the bill that Tillis now touts as being a taxpayer bill. It was not. It was a power and money grab by wealthy out-of-state companies to disadvantage North Carolina residents – nothing more. The residents lost.
The FCC recognized the power grab and the unfair disadvantage to regular folks. The FCC blocked the big companies for a while. Big business took the FCC to court and won. The people lost.
Tillis’ Aug. 19 letter should have been captioned, “Another major loss for taxpayers.” Even if the title to the bill that took away our rights was grossly misleading, at least the title to his letter would have been correct.
Democratic member, N.C. House 2005-2012; chairman, House Broadband Study Committee 2008-2010
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the issue.