Report Shows How Big Bad Bills Bulldoze Broadband

Here’s a fun experiment:

Grab the next person you see and tell her you’re about to talk about tech policy (you know, to prepare her). If she hasn’t screamed, pulled out all of her hair or fled the room, tell her you’re about to take a voyage to strange lands where laws exist that make it harder for people to access the Internet.

You: Some laws were passed in faraway places like Colorado, North Carolina, Tennessee and Utah. These laws make it harder for people to get online. Plus they destroy competition, raise prices and hurt local economies.

Her: But why would elected officials pass laws that restrict our access to information?

You: Let me introduce you to a little thing called “corporate lobbying.”

If you need help explaining the weird workings of this world to your friend, try consulting The Empire Lobbies Back: How Big Cable Killed Competition in North Carolina, a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) and Common Cause.

This study details how companies like AT&T, CenturyLink and Time Warner Cable banded together in 2011 to push through HB 129, a bill in the North Carolina legislature that made it just about impossible for communities to create their own broadband networks. (This became law after five North Carolina communities, including Wilson — whose success ILSR previously documented — built fast and affordable networks that challenged the dominance of incumbent cable and DSL companies.)

Residents across North Carolina need better and more affordable broadband service. Some rural residents lack access to any kind of high-speed Internet — leading some business owners to close their doors and making it hard for local kids to get a decent education.

But rather than extend their services to people who need them, companies like Time Warner Cable would rather torpedo community-driven initiatives that seek to fill the