Many Americans think that at the state level a bill becomes law only if it is passed by both House and Senate and signed by the Governor. Not so. Across our 50 states we have no less than 63 ways a bill can become “law without signature” by a Governor looking to avoid controversy or accountability that might quash their Presidential hopes or land them in jail:
One such bill was North Carolina House Bill 129 (NC H129), which on 21 May of this year became North Carolina Session Law 2011-84 (SL 2011-84) without the signature of Governor Beverly Eaves “B” Perdue … whose last name is actually that of her dead ex-husband … whose middle name is her current husband’s last name … and the “B”, well, ask Andy about that.
Anyway, with Aunt B’s inaction the “Level Playing Field/Local Government Competition” bill – like the USA PATRIOT Act of a decade before – was passed into law with covenants that were the exact opposite of its Orwellian cover. Opponents like the Institute for Local Self Reliance referred to NC H129 as the “Time Warner Cable Monopoly Protection Act”, and with good reason.
As Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn warned, “Do not let the title fool you. This measure, if enacted, will not only fail to level the playing field; it will discourage municipal governments from addressing deployment in communities where the private sector has failed to meet broadband service needs. In other words, it will be a significant barrier to broadband deployment and may impede local efforts to promote economic development.”
Another reason the Time Warner Cable logo should have been on the cover of NC H129 is that, according to industry watchdog StopTheCap.com, it was Time Warner’s lawyers and lobbyists who actually drafted th legislation and assigned it to State Representative Marilyn Avila to sponsor. And sponsor it she did, despite the fact that it was opposed by many of her own constituents:
“Raleigh’s City Council adopted a resolution opposing Avila’s legislation, written on behalf of Time Warner Cable. H129 will destroy North Carolina’s community-owned broadband networks and prevent new ones from launching. Council Member Bonner Gaylord, who authored the resolution, says passage of these kinds of anti-competitive bills would stop local governments from providing needed communications services, especially advanced high-speed broadband, and deny local governments the availability of federal grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to assist in providing affordable access to high-capacity broadband service in unserved and underserved areas.”
But despite a thumbs down from industry watchdogs, and over the protests of the cities and people of the state, NC H129 still received the support of enough legislators to become law. And how did Time Warner Cable garner the necessary votes? They bought them, as Joey Mornin explains:
“If you’re like most Americans, you probably buy your Internet service from one of a small handful of corporate providers. The big incumbent broadband providers – like Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable – often enjoy monopoly or duopoly privileges in the areas they serve. Recently, some communities have started to implement their own municipal broadband networks. These community-owned networks are often faster, cheaper, and more reliable than the corporate alternatives. In North Carolina, for instance, community-owned networks like Fibrant and Greenlight consistently outperform the commercial offerings from Time Warner, AT&T, and CenturyLink. Similar municipal broadband projects are taking root across the country. Their expansion, however, threatens the comfortable markets that corporate broadband providers have come to expect. In what could become a typical case, Time Warner is supporting a bill in the North Carolina state legislature that would impose sharp limits on the growth of municipal broadband networks. Despite widespread opposition, the bill recently passed in both chambers of the state legislature. Time Warner, which reported $26 billion in revenue in 2010, has donated over $6.3 million to North Carolina politicians over the last four years.”
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