Commentary

Thom Tillis tells a tall tale about telecom

TillisIf you get a minute this morning, be sure to check out the outstanding letter to the editor that appears in Raleigh’s News & Observer from former North Carolina state lawmaker, Bill Faison. In it, Faison, shreds the lame, lobbyist-inspired excuses proffered by U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (pictured at left) for his kowtowing to powerful cable companies while serving as Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives.

At issue is the question of municipal broadband of the kind the city of Wilson developed and that telecom companies (with Tillis’ help) put the kibosh on. Here’s Faison:

“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….

When Wilson sought better high-speed internet for its residents, the “telecommunications company” with a territorial franchise to serve Wilson said “no….”

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.'”

2 Comments


  1. Audrey Dickens

    August 24, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    North Carolina cities & towns should be able to provide internet access to their citizens.
    Instead, when Senator Thom Tilling was in the North Carolina Legislature, he worked to only allow cable companies, etc. provide internet access & prohibited municipalities from providing internet access to their citizens.

    This is why, in North Carolina, internet service is outrageously expensive.

    Thom Tillis would to insure that private companies (cable such as Time Warner) had a monopoly.

    With these rules in place, North Carolina Residents have to pay whatever the huge private corporations want to charge!

    Is this an example of Thom Tillis serving the citizens of North Carolina or does it show that he has been bought off by BIG CORPORATIONS?

  2. Hopewell Chihuri

    August 31, 2016 at 11:58 am

    I certainly have had my differences with Sen Tillis, but those proposing towns go into the cable business should consider the case of MI Connection.

    Back in 2007 the towns of Mooresville and Davidson decided it would be a good idea to buy the local bankrupt cable company. Rosy projections predicted it would be profitable by 2013, and profits would total $47 million between 2013- 2018. So they formed MI Connection and outbid a private offer.

    Since then the towns have contributed over $30 million in operating subsidies, including $7 million in 2007 ALONE. In 2013 debt was restructured, projections revised and it was supposed to be profitable by 2017. Recently they reported the picture has “improved” so in 2017 Davidson will “only” contribute $1M and Mooresville $1.7M.

    With a combined population of 48,000, this tidy little experiment has cost every man, woman and child nearly $700 with no end in sight.

    The cable business changes rapidly and has been disrupted repeatedly over the last two decades (does anybody remember AOL?). Not exactly something government is suited for.

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