NCDOT and Chapel Hill Fund Traffic Signal Fiber

According to the Chapel Hill eNews, the NC Department of Transportation and the Town of Chapel Hill will share the cost of "rehabilitation and expansion of the traffic signal system serving Chapel Hill and Carrboro." Part of this project includes the replacement of old copper wire with fiber optic communication cable. This means hopefully sometime in 2011 we'll have a fiber network to deliver broadband Internet connections to people via wireless. Now we need to stop legislation built to prevent municipalities from building networks.

From the Town of Chapel Hill eNews: (subscribe here)

- Rehabilitation and Expansion of Traffic Signal System: The Council approved a plan for the rehabilitation and expansion of the traffic signal system serving Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The $5 million project with the NC Department of Transportation requires a local cost-share of $450,000.

The State recently informed Town engineers that the project funding schedule has moved up two years earlier to 2009. A tentative schedule calls for project design this fall, construction in April 2009, and completion in 2011.

In addition to replacing obsolete equipment and old copper wire communications system, the Town has set aside an additional $500,000 of capital funds to include fiber optic communication cable in the system upgrade. The project could help ensure that the Council's vision of universal broadband services throughout Chapel Hill becomes a reality.

At the Town's request, the upgrade will also include closed-circuit television equipment at selected locations, new system detectors, pedestrian countdown displays, replacement or upgrade of existing cabinets and controllers, new or revised signal phasing, emergency vehicle preemption at selected locations, bicycle activated loops at selected locations, and transit priority on selected corridors.

Now it is VERY important that we continue to work against State and Federal legislation that would restrict the Town of Chapel Hill from using this fiber optic for a broadband network.

Recently we dodged a bullet when HB 1587 (The Local Government Fair Competition Act) was pulled at the start of the Utilities Committee meeting last Wednesday. Thanks to constituent emails this bit of proposed legislation was reconsidered. BUT this type of bil will return. Here is what the League of Municipalities had to say about it.

Telecom companies want to restrict local government authority to provide communications services to citizens

Last session, the telecommunications companies pushed for and won statewide franchising of video services, claiming that the local franchising process hampered competition. That state franchising legislation imposed very little regulation and did not require companies to serve an entire community.

Now, the telecom companies are pushing HB 1587 ­ Local Government Fair Competition Act, which would place significant roadblocks and restrictions on any local government that wants to provide communications services ­ including cable, telephone, electronic voice, data, audio or video transmission and Internet access ­ to its citizens.

Access to high-speed broadband service is critical for the future economic development of our state as we attempt to replace our lost textile, tobacco, and furniture jobs. HB 1587 will effectively prevent local governments from bringing high-speed broadband to North Carolina communities, especially to rural and distressed urban areas. Through their opposition to build-out requirements, the industry has made it clear they have no intention of investing in such areas.

Municipalities are already subject to numerous public scrutiny and public accountability requirements for all infrastructure projects. These new Draconian requirements are simply designed to prevent deployment of local broadband networks, whether done alone or even in partnership with the private sector.

The League opposes HB 1587 because it seeks to undermine local authority to undertake enterprise activities ­ authority that has been upheld by the courts.

This bill was scheduled for discussion before the House Public Utilities Committee this week, but was not taken up. Please call your representatives and ask them to oppose this bill.

(Side note: Heads up Town of Carrboro. Legislation could unfairly regulate how your existing network is run!)


Let your State Reps know that any bill that would restrict or over regulate the creation and maintenance of a municipal broadband network is WRONG!

Issues: 

Total votes: 114

Comments

You can find names and emails of the members of the House Utilities committee here. (MS Exel file) If you choose to contact them.

In case you missed this relevant article...

http://www.newsobserver.com/business/story/576503.html

The article Charlie links to above is a good cautionary tale... but comparing building a wifi network to a monorail boondoggle is a classic pro-business fear tactic.

That said building a muni wireless network is a huge risk. So is widening I40 which has lost millions due to mistakes.

Does that mean we should not be building municipal networks because something may go wrong? Of course not. Get ready folks for the not stop argument of so called fiscal equity on building the infrastructure of tomorrow. If we were so conservative about building public water and sewer we'd still be using outhouses!

No great project worth doing is without glitches and mistakes. What we should be doing is learning from other municipalities mistakes. One important thing to consider is how to support a network AFTER its constructed.

Brian, have to disagree on the risk. To be selfish about it, the first stage of this process will reduce our governments cost of delivering existing services. You can measure the payback directly by looking at today's bills for Time-Warner and other telecommunication services off-loaded to private carriers. The ROI from this is not risky.

Again, still within a purely support role for local government, this new infrastructure provides new opportunities for delivering a new calibre of service - for instance, Holly Spring's example of improving their inspections departments efficiency enough to save filling 5 additional staff positions. While we continue to waste money on 900mhz tech for first responders, the new infrastructure will allow us to be much more flexible in adopting a next-gen emergency communications system.

There's many more examples of the concrete rewards of a community-owned fiber backbone that involve little or no risk and quite incremental cost of adoption.

Of course, once we have this wonderful asset (the new plank road?), we'll be able to use it for economic development, bridging the digital divide, advancing eco-friendly home-based business, etc.

ROI may not be risky but lack of planning and bad partnerships sure as hell can be. My point is we must pay attention to other Muni network roll outs. Risk aversion is a bad argument against muni network construction. (the basis of the article linked above)

HB 1587 (The Local Government Fair Competition Act) to be considered again. Already!

NORTH CAROLINA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

COMMITTEE MEETING NOTICE

AND

BILL SPONSOR NOTIFICATION

2007-2008 SESSION

You are hereby notified that the Committee on Public Utilities will meet as follows:

DAY & DATE: Wednesday, May 30, 2007

TIME: 10:00 am

LOCATION: 1228 LB

COMMENTS:

The following bills will be considered:

BILL NO.

SHORT TITLE

SPONSOR

HB 1587
The Local Gov't Fair Competition Act.

Representative Saunders
Representative Holliman
Representative Brubaker
Representative Howard

Respectfully,

Representative Saunders, Chair

I hereby certify this notice was filed by the committee assistant at the following offices at

10 o'clock on May 24, 2007.

Principal Clerk

Reading Clerk – House Chamber

Ruth Fish (Committee Assistant)

Sample email to send to Reps.

Dear Rep. ________________:
Please vote "no"on HR1587 --"Local Government Fair Competition Act," under review in the Utilities Committee meeting. This bill will severely cripple any local government's ability to provide high speed broadband internet service to their community - whether alone or in partnership with the private sector. It does this by forcing a referendum and stringent accounting and reporting requirements for even the simplest wireless system. Local governments are already subject to numerous public accountability and scrutiny requirements for all infrastructure projects. These additional measures would just kill deployment of local broadband networks, and the industry knows it. For example, it would end the Town of Carrboro's wireless network and prevent the Town of Chapel Hill from constructing their own municipal network.

Access to high speed internet service is essential for the future economic development of our state to replace our lost textile, tobacco and furniture base. Don't prevent local governments from bringing high speed broadband to our communities, especially to rural and distressed urban areas, where the industry has made it clear they have no intention of investing. Vote no on HR1587.

If the telecom industry was providing us with up-to-date broadband service at reasonable rates, their efforts to stymie municipal efforts to provide same might be understandable. As it is, the US of A, is nowhere near the top in up to date broadband service. Countries such as Korea are ahead of us in providing faster access to the internet at half the cost. I am aware of no efforts to provide "fiber to the home" by telephone companies in North Carolina. This facility would make DSL service faster than the cable company"s boradband available. Across the USA only Verizon is providing this facility in a limited number of communities. That being the case, efforts by telcom interests to hobble community efforts to provide accessible broadband are intolerable.

The House Utilities committee met yesterday. They tabled the vote until wed. June 6. Plus they added some really bad stuff to the bill. Now localities "could" become telecommunications service providers BUT would be subject to all kinds of bad stuff. I wrote about it on Yesh.com in a post called HB1587 is still bad. Please check it out and consider emailing your House Rep.

BrianR is right, the modifications are reprehensible. This also, unfortunately, demonstrates the risk our Town and its leadership ran as they have shilly-shallied for the last 3 1/2 years.

BTW, Brian you've done an excellent job covering these issues. Anyone interested in promoting "the" economic tool of this decade should be following your posts. Thanks for all the great work.

The Chapel Hill Town Council passed a resolution last night opposing House Bill 1587 aka The Local Gov't Fair Competition Act. Thank you Mayor and Council! They join the City of Wilson and the City of Fayetteville in their opposition.

How about Carrboro and Orange County?

The Carrboro board of Alderman passed a resolution opposing hb1587 last night. Thank you Mayor and Alderman!

How about Orange County?

Here is a video of the NC House Public Utilities Committee Vote on HB1587.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3366175539811290780

Orange County passed a resolution against HB1587 on Tuesday night. Here is a copy.
http://www.co.orange.nc.us/OCCLERKS/0706264ff.pdf

5 years from now the $500K we spend on fiber will be returning more bang for the buck than the $20M we would've invested in Lot #5....

From today's USA Today

The USA trails other industrialized nations in high-speed Internet access and may never catch up unless quick action is taken by public-policymakers, a report commissioned by the Communications Workers of America warns.

The median U.S. download speed now is 1.97 megabits per second — a fraction of the 61 megabits per second enjoyed by consumers in Japan, says the report released Monday. Other speedy countries include South Korea (median 45 megabits), France (17 megabits) and Canada (7 megabits).

"We have pathetic speeds compared to the rest of the world," CWA President Larry Cohen says. "People don't pay attention to the fact that the country that started the commercial Internet is falling woefully behind."

Speed matters on the Internet. A 10-megabyte file takes about 15 seconds to download with a 5-megabit connection — fast for the USA. Download time with a 545-kilobit connection, about the entry-level speed in many areas: almost 2½ minutes.

Broadband speed is a function of network capacity: The more capacity you have, the more speed you can deliver. Speed, in turn, allows more and better Internet applications, such as photo sharing and video streaming. Superfast speeds are imperative for critical applications such as telemedicine.

In recent years, communities also have found that good broadband is essential to draw businesses and jobs.

For all those reasons, Cohen says, it is important for policymakers to act now: "In order to maintain our place in today's global economy — and to create the jobs we need — our government must act."

 

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