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Time Warner Cable Won't Compete, Seeks Legislation

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the they-sure-seem-to-like-bad-publicity dept.

The Internet 621

narramissic writes "The good people of Wilson, NC pay $99/month for 10/10 Mbps internet service, 81 TV channels and telephone service. How'd they manage that, you ask? Well, the city-owned and operated cable service called Greenlight came into being when the City of Wilson approached TWC and local DSL provider Embarq and requested faster service for the area. 'TWC refused the request. And so Greenlight was born,' says blogger Peter Smith. 'Now Time Warner Cable and Embarq are upset that they've got competition, and rather than try to go head to head with Greenlight on price and service, they've instead been lobbying the state government of NC to pass laws to put Greenlight out of business. Apparently they're having some success, as the NC State Senate has proposed bills that would do TWC's bidding.'"

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621 comments

Convert? (5, Interesting)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688177)

Would it just be easier to convert Greenlight to a citizen run corporation or make it a utility?

I am not a legal eagle on NC law, but I would think it wouldn't be that difficult to convert to a citizen run profit/nonprofit corporation and then TWC is effectively screwed.

Re:Convert? (5, Informative)

kid_oliva (899189) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688341)

That is exactly what they did in Wadsworth, where i used to live. They made it a utility. TWC bitched and the town said screw you. I worked as a night auditor back then in 2000 and told our management we should switch because it would be cheaper. We looked into and did. TWC threaten us with litigation, we told them to go fornicate with goat and our lawyers took care of it. This is ridiculous when a private company is stifling competition. More communities need to do this. If they would not have wasted the 250 billion given to them by Clinton, they would be having this issue.

Re: Convert? (5, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688793)

we told them to go fornicate with goat and our lawyers

How rude!

we told them to go fornicate with goat[,] and our lawyers took care of it.

Oh. I liked the first one better.

Re: Convert? (5, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688827)

This is ridiculous when a private company is stifling competition.

The benefits of competition are only of interest to companies as a mantra for getting government regulations eliminated. No company actually wants it.

Re:Convert? (5, Insightful)

Narpak (961733) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688843)

If the companies delivering internet doesn't deliver the speed or quality desired by the citizens of a region or city; then I see absolutely no problem with the people taking matters into their own hands. In fact I would call it democracy in practice. TWC trying to push legislation should be ruled as anti-competitive behaviour and they should be heavily fined.

If anything should be done it might be the privatization of the newly created service provider. The city should retain a minority controlling share, impose oversight and fair rules; and then let the company exist as a competitor. If TWC want to gain back their customers they should perhaps try to actually provide the services people want, at fair prices and with good service. Instead of using resources that could be better spent trying to hinder and punish citizens who's example should be honoured, respected and emulated.

Re:Convert? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27688389)

But then they couldn't use tax dollars quite so easily, could they?

Re:Convert? (3, Interesting)

Chabil Ha' (875116) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688495)

The idea is to use tax dollars for the initial costs of infrastructure and then convert to a private entity once established for operational costs and maintenance. Not a terrible idea at all. Makes me wish I lived in a smaller town, actually.

Re:Convert? (5, Insightful)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688931)

Personally I don't see how private interests are anything but harmful when it comes to running of important public infrastructures.

Re:Convert? (1)

immakiku (777365) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688397)

This is a very interesting idea. Logistically how would that work? How do you ensure that a for-profit organization will not act in the direction of how TWC acts?

Re:Convert? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27688643)

How do you ensure that a for-profit organization will not act in the direction of how TWC acts?

First off, it need not be a for-profit company. Or rather, it need not be a publicly traded for-profit company. If you're not publicly traded your shareholders aren't some nebulous concept, they're probably people you know. You see them in the grocery store and on the street. They also aren't in it just for the money - they care about the company and how it behaves, not just how the quarterly earning statements are effecting the stock price.

Secondly, it won't act the same direction as TWC because that's the selling point. If you're a small company with little name recognition, why will customers choose you over the big guy? "We're not Time Warner" is worth a lot when "being Time Warner" means charging a lot for crappy service.

Re:Convert? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27688573)

Presumably the low cost of service is subsidized with tax money because it's not a private 3rd party. So you bury the cost in paper, it's worked for centuries.

Now the question is, you make them private, as your neighbor do I still pay taxes for your internet and cable service if I decide I want to use TWC instead? Now I'm paying [Tax]+TWC$.

Who would do that, even if TWC was the better deal? Makes it pretty impossible for TWC or anyone else to compete at any price, eh? Methinks this is not the competition you thought it was.

Re:Convert? (1)

nicolas.kassis (875270) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688851)

Doesn't have to be done like that, they could issue municipal bounds to pay for the project and pay those bonds back with money received from the subscription revenues.

Re:Convert? (1)

click2005 (921437) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688885)

Now the question is, you make them private, as your neighbor do I still pay taxes for your internet and cable service if I decide I want to use TWC instead? Now I'm paying [Tax]+TWC$.

Yes you do. Just like with public healthcare even if you dont use it, your taxes still fund it.
You get to choose who gets elected and they choose how to spend your tax money.

Re:Convert? (3, Insightful)

ccandreva (409807) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688635)

Not only easier, but fairer.

I have no love for TW -- I run a small ISP. But a government-run business charging break-even prices is not fair competition for any business. I would certainly be complaining if it looked like my taxes dollars were being used to compete with me !

So let them turn it private. If they can THEN charge break-even prices great. More likely, they'll find they can't. Either way, it's then fair competition.

Re:Convert? (0)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688823)

Except break even prices for a government run business are hardly what break even prices are in a free market. Government agencies always over pay the people they hire and then they grossly overpay the people they contract to do some of the work. So at the end fo the day, they spend much more money then needed to get a job done.

Re:Convert? (1)

xystren (522982) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688833)

Common sense would say that TWC/Embarq doesn't have a leg to stand on since the City of Wilson went to them and asked for a particular service that they had clear specification that TWC/Embarq refused to provide. CoW found another way through the creation of Greenlight, and now TWC/Embarq has their panties in a bunch, complaining about competition? You have got to be kidding me. Take some !@#$!#$ responsibility for the business decision you made in not offering the service that was proposed. You lost a sale. Grow up and get over it!

The monopoly that you had lulled you into a false sense of security that you didn't need to provide service that your customers wanted. How can you honestly be surprised?? If you don't provide what the customer wants, they will find what they want elsewhere. Why are you surprised. Ohh, because that sense of superiority and the "Why would anyone go anywhere else?" or "Where else can they go?" You sound just like the US auto industry did in the mid '70s and '80s when the import market began to take off.

It just another example that supports that government listens to big money.

TWC/Embarq: Go whine, flap your money, get your legislation passed, get your bail out dollars and just STFU.

What a sad state we live in.

IMNSHO,
Xyst

What crap... (5, Informative)

xgr3gx (1068984) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688241)

The US needs competition for all these Cable/ISPs. I just read an article about how most countries with high-speed internet offers about 50Mbps for the price I pay for 10 Mbps.

It's mostly because of the competition among the providers.
What's the matter TWC, afraid that your archaic bloated business model couldn't compete?

Re:What crap... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27688465)

The US needs competition for all these Cable/ISPs. I just read an article about how most countries with high-speed internet offers about 50Mbps for the price I pay for 10 Mbps.

It's mostly because of the competition among the providers.

What's the matter TWC, afraid that your archaic bloated business model couldn't compete?

Yes, service providers need competition, but government institutions shouldn't be in the business of competing with private enterprise.

Re:What crap... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27688551)

"Wilson approached TWC and local DSL provider Embarq and requested faster service for the area. 'TWC refused the request."

Re:What crap... (5, Insightful)

twidarkling (1537077) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688631)

Why not? Governments are "For the people, by the people" aren't they? So if the people all say "Hey, we want this. Do it." to their government, and the government does it, and well, more power to them. After all, if the private entities failed to react to customer concerns on such an epic scale, why should we be stuck with them? Aren't private companies supposed to be better by virtue of being able to respond to the changing market more quickly than public institutions? If they need to resort to legislation to keep in business, they're doomed. It's just a matter of sooner or later.

Re:What crap... (5, Insightful)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688749)

I'm a huge proponent of small government but I actually agree wholeheartedly with this argument. Particularly when you're doing this at the city level. This is a small community (of 50,000) that obviously agreed this was the right decision for them. This sort of project is a large undertaking and I'm sure everyone had an opportunity to voice their opinion. If a monopoly is completely screwing your town over there's no reason you shouldn't be able to organize yourselves and roll your own solution.

What's happening at the state level where TWC is manipulating the law to prevent this is actually a perfect example of how broken government is the higher up you get.

Re:What crap... (1)

AnalPerfume (1356177) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688879)

Governments work perfectly for the people, they just left out a couple of words in the censored version we're fed.

"For the (rich) people, by the (rich) people".

Re:What crap... (2, Interesting)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688645)

Why not? What's so special about the idea of non-governmental corporations that makes them preferable?

Re:What crap... (0)

chill (34294) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688899)

The ability to bypass or ignore all the government imposed tariffs, taxes and fees. The ability to bypass or ignore government mandated zoning, impact and environmental laws and regulations. The unfair advantage of not having to deal with various government boards for right-of-way and zoning permits or waivers. The ability to use eminent domain laws to forcibly confiscate private property.

The correct way for the government entity to do this is -- assuming a mandate from their population -- create the RFP defining what they want and then put it out to bid for private companies. If there is profit to be made, someone will step up to the plate.

Re:What crap... (2, Insightful)

orthancstone (665890) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688687)

In this case, gov't needs to be involved. The cable/ISP providers have no intention of doing their customers a favor and have EVERY intention of preventing competition from getting a foothold.

POWER to the PEOPLE (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688245)

That's what it's all about, baby. Public Power! Conservatives can jabber all they want, but nobody can screw you as well as a private utility can!

Support the Grange!

Re:POWER to the PEOPLE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27688865)

Correction, nobody can screw you as well as a government owned and operated service provider can! When the government screws you, there is noone else to turn to.

Total BS (3, Funny)

Deflagro (187160) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688261)

So is this proof that the Gov't is run by Corporations? Like we really didn't already know but come on...

If all lobbying was eliminated, we might have a semi-fair and equal system but that won't be happening while the politicos keep getting free vacations and money to line their bentleys.

Re:Total BS (3, Insightful)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688487)

Yeah! Without lobbyist, the politicians would have to do their own research and make decisions for themselves! Just think of it, people whose area of expertise is in law and politics would be deciding laws in all sorts of fields they have no understanding of! And, er, wait...

Re:Total BS (5, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688595)

You may be sarcastic, but it does beg the question: Isn't that what we pay those people for? Isn't it their damn job to investigate what to do and what laws to pass? Isn't that basically their only reason to exist, to find out what's "best" for what is considered the common good and act in this manner?

If they cannot act that way, fire them. Yes, fire them. Out of a cannon if necessary, but they are essentially our employees. If I'm not satisfied with the performance of an employee, I send him packing and hire someone who can do his job.

Re:Total BS (1)

twidarkling (1537077) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688655)

Yes. How strange that they system would end up being almost exactly how it is now. Only with potentially better effects as there would be no perks to deciding one way or the other.

Re:Total BS (1)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688659)

This is why you don't have lobbyists, you have consultants. Grab some (as in get a good selection) university professors and ask them their opinion. The key thing is to avoid people with vested interests from providing recommendations. Also, if it's something with scientific data behind it, the supporting research should be published as well.

They need to be put in check (5, Interesting)

Erie Ed (1254426) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688263)

This is why TWC needs to be investigated for their practices. It seems to me that the NC government just wants to roll over to TWC wishes. I for one applaude that community that actually went out and did something to improve their service. Also I believe 10/10Mbps for $99 is a fair price as long as the quality is there.

Re:They need to be put in check (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688375)

$99 is an especially fair price for 10/10, phone service and 81 channels of cable. With Comcast, I think I pay about that much for 10/4, phone and 35 channels. While 10/4 is certainly good enough for my needs, it certainly shows that all these companies should be able to do better.

I don't know why TWC and Embarq don't believe in capitalism; they should let the market work its magic.

Re:They need to be put in check (2, Insightful)

immakiku (777365) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688477)

Not only does it show that these companies should be able to do better than 10-4/phone/35, but it shows that these companies should be able to do better than 10-10/phone/81. This business is definitely an economy of scale with technology being a common resource that can be easily reapplied.

Sickening (5, Insightful)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688295)

It's sickening to watch massive corporations give up on the ideals of commercialism (competing for the consumer's dollars on the basis of quality, service, and price) and instead simply doing business through legislation (make it illegal for your competition to exist...). I feel like I'm watching someone's Cyberpunk or Shadowrun campaign come together as megacorps take control of governments... It's all sickening...

Re:Sickening (1)

American Terrorist (1494195) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688475)

We've gotta cut the bullshit,
And show the proof,
Rip the tree out of the ground,
And expose the roots,
Cause the people that found,
That we on the approach,
Then they keep held us down,
It's the chosen few,
Just sit, get rich,
What we're going through,
Cause 9-5 slaves slave for these corporate fools,
And try to deny that they distort the rules,
Inside minds built pages and forced the youth,
In the schools have been trained to ignore the truth,
In the nation where the threat that approaches you,
Before you take another test,
Know the joke's on you,
They only gave you the textbooks to mold your views,
Living with your soul confused,
Some people don't believe they got us on the loose,
Runnin' around chasin' after golden shoes,
Livin their whole lives doin what they're told you to.

If I only knew what the way was,
What would I do?
If you knew what you knew could save us,
Would you try to?
Cause we're living in a Truman Show,
There's a limit to what you can know,
Shit is different than what you've been told,
You've been sold second hand human souls.

We think that we see,
When we don't see the half,
We think that we've learned,
But we can't do the math,
We think that we know,
Let yourself go, let yourself go, let yourself go. We live in a Truman Show [6lyrics.com]

Re:Sickening (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688489)

I feel like I'm watching someone's Cyberpunk or Shadowrun campaign come together as megacorps take control of governments... It's all sickening...

Maybe this will change when people start thinking that it's better to shrink Government than try to manage it? If Government didn't think it had the power to regulate internet service and grant monopolies (franchise agreements) then there wouldn't be any point in TWC spending money to lobby the Government, would there?

Re:Sickening (5, Insightful)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688565)

We let that sort of thing happen every time we concede more and more to the government in terms of providing services for us. With all of the extra money and the ability to represent everyone, you suddenly realize that corps don't have to care what individuals want any more, they only have to care what the government wants.

And the advantage from their perspective is that unlike in the market, where they have to serve millions, when you play to the government, you only have to satisfy a few hundred legislators and bureaucrats. And bribing/lobbying a few hundred people is honestly a lot cheaper than bringing a quality product to market.

So, if you were a corp, what would you do?

Government regulation and lobbying controls aren't going to do diddly until people realize the problem isn't with the lobbyists, per se. It's due to the fact that we've created the perfect customer for these corporations. It has incredible amounts of money to spend, not very high standards, a preference for a centralized and monolithic "low bid" sorts of vendors, and of course, it is easily and efficiently manipulated by controlling just a few key people.

The only question is whether the multinationals need the bloated government or if they can someday discard its bloated corpse and operate like the dystopian sovereign megacorps that you refer to.

Re:Sickening (5, Insightful)

Keith_Beef (166050) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688919)

It's sickening to watch massive corporations give up on the ideals of commercialism (competing for the consumer's dollars on the basis of quality, service, and price) and instead simply doing business through legislation (make it illegal for your competition to exist...). I feel like I'm watching someone's Cyberpunk or Shadowrun campaign come together as megacorps take control of governments... It's all sickening...

A corporation that exists to make profit will use any means available to make those profits. If lobbying and back-room deals pay better than R&D, then that's where the corporation will put its efforts.

I don't like that any more than you, but we have to face the facts: that's how it works.

If you want corporations to compete on value (i.e., cost/benefit for the consumer), then you need a system where R&D gives better returns than lobbying.

This kind of stuff has been going on for ever. In feudal times, there were monopolies, guilds, charters; in the renaissance there monopolies, guilds were less influential, but there were still charters; in the 18th century, businessmen like Boulton and Wedgwood would petition parliament for extensions of patents in order to corner markets and build monopolies... TWC is behaving somewhat like the Dutch or British East India Companies... just taking care of business in the most efficient way that the system allows, and if that means using political influence then so be it.

You can't wish it away. If you want to think of TWC as the enemy and defeat it, you need to understand the strategy and tactics available to your enemy and adapt your own strategy and tactics in consequence. If TWC has access to those who write and enact bills, then get access for yourself, or block TWC's access to that resource.

K.

So they have two Cables running in parallel? (4, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688297)

They have Greenlight and Time-Warner cables running in parallel to one another? Good!!! I wish more communities would do stuff like that. If every city had TW, Comcast, Cox running 3-4 cables in parallel, then the power would be in the hands of the People to choose which one they like best.

Re:So they have two Cables running in parallel? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27688603)

I'm guessing they actually run new fiber to every customer?? That can't be cheap to install or support.

The greenlight site says the customers all have FTTH (Fiber To The Home), not your standard coax that the big corps use.

Re:So they have two Cables running in parallel? (5, Interesting)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688761)

Probably not. I'm guessing with a $28 million initial cost, the city wanted to run fiber. TWC and Embarq refused saying it would cost them too much. By the way, federal taxes since 1995 have paid something on the order of $202 billion to these companies to put in fiber but they have taken the money and have never installed it. So the city took it upon themselves to run fiber. So TWC and Embarq cannot compete since they are most likely using copper. What TWC and Embarq would like to do is put Greenlight out of business then take over their lines. Then they could offer higher speeds. Of course they will charge their customers double the price Greenlight was charging even though they paid nothing for the infrastructure.

Re:So they have two Cables running in parallel? (1, Offtopic)

penguinstorm (575341) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688769)

Say it loud brother!

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by speed of their internet connections.

Let 50Mb/s bandwidth ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let 50Mb/s bandwidth ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let 50Mb/s bandwidth ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let 50Mb/s bandwidth ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

Fast at last! Fast at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are downloading at 50Mb/s at last!

Re:So they have two Cables running in parallel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27688783)

Wow, now I have to pick between the lesser of 3-- 4 evils?

Re:So they have two Cables running in parallel? (1)

Ian Alexander (997430) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688907)

The problem is Time-Warner doesn't like that and is trying to legislate the competition out of existence. A time-honored capitalist tradition.

Businesses cry "free market capitalism!" (5, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688301)

But only when it is convenient. When it isn't convenient, they expect the government to prop up their business model in order to ensure that their profits are maximized and that their competition is none.

This is an extremely ugly an hypocritical face of modern business today. People want lower prices and more affordable services and if they have to build it themselves to get it, they should be allowed to do it.

This is not an entirely new story as other communications/media companies have sued municipalities to prevent them from making competitive progress in areas where they otherwise did not want to compete or operate. And these companies won. I am a little lost on what legal justification was used in winning their cases though... anyone have any insight?

Competition (1)

ausekilis (1513635) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688317)

So... instead of looking to compete, seek legislation to put a competitor out of business?
What school of economics did TWC go to?
I suppose if they offered that low of price in one locale, they'd have a customer uprising to get the price everywhere. Comcast already stated that it's cheaper to run the higher speed equipment, which could allow them to compete at that level and still run a profit. Guess the CEO's wallet just isn't fat enough.

Good Business != Good Economics (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688503)

So... instead of looking to compete, seek legislation to put a competitor out of business? What school of economics did TWC go to?

They went to business school and law school, and avoided effete topics such as economics.
Are you ready to bend over and be a good bitch for TW's legion of MBAs and lawyers now?

Surprised? (2, Interesting)

immakiku (777365) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688325)

This has happened before, for a municipal-sponsored project.

From the project manager's blog, some of what they are doing is actually fair: not allowing cities to price below costs. This makes a lot of sense and is actually good for competition. Not allowing subscription fees to pay for other city projects - this on the other hand is not necessarily fair. Ideally TWC should be pricing their service competitively to Greenlight such that no extra profit is left over to fund other city projects. But they don't want to do that. They just want to minimize the threat from Greenlight given that they can't get rid of them. In my opinion, though, a public service using public resources should not overcharge to begin with - it should charge all subscribers a fair rate so that it's a self-contained project which provides exactly the service it was created to do.

Re:Surprised? (3, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688423)

Not allowing subscription fees to pay for other city projects - this on the other hand is not necessarily fair.

This is insanely stupid from TWC's point of view. If I can't charge a little bit extra for my muni broadband to pay for extra police (or a new SUV for myself, or whatever), then I'll just lower my rates to breakeven.

Which will just make it harder for TWC to compete, since they have to make a profit, and I'm forbidden to make a profit.

Re:Surprised? (1)

immakiku (777365) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688585)

They're trying to kill other such projects in the womb. The less incentive to work on such a risky project, the fewer people will try to do it. If Bumble, NC, sees Wilson, NC running a successful ISP which manages to pay for costs AND other projects, they have a big incentive to start their own ISP. On the other hand, if the ISP just does what it does but doesn't benefit other departments, there's almost zero incentive for Bumble, NC to do this. They don't already have an ISP department - they just care about running their other services.

Re:Surprised? (1)

allawalla (1030240) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688665)

From the bill it actually sounds the other way around. That taxes, garbage collection fees, etc... can not be used to subsidize greenlight. Which doesn't seem like such a bad idea.

Re:Surprised? (1)

TimeTraveler1884 (832874) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688939)

Why not? If I am a citizen of Wilson and I want my taxes subsidizing high-speed internet infrastructure, my vote for city council members and their policies should have more weight than the dollars of some foreign corporation that is lobbying the state government.

Re:Surprised? (1)

MagicM (85041) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688805)

Not allowing subscription fees to pay for other city projects - this on the other hand is not necessarily fair.

And that's why the blog's writer is highlighting it, because he doesn't want the bill to succeed. However, the opposite of that is to not allow revenue from other city project to subsidize the Greenlight project, and that does seem fair. It would be anti-competitive if they can only offer a lower price by making up for the relative loss with income from other sources.

From skimming the bills it just looks like they want Greenlight to operate like an ISP that is independent of the City, and that has the same costs and disadvantages as other ISPs.

Cue free-market v.s socialism debates.

best goverment money can buy (3, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688359)

Bubububbut I thought the market decided these things! I guess I didn't realize that the legislature was on the market as well.

Re:best goverment money can buy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27688533)

Heh... Best laws money can buy.

If you can't innovate (1)

captnbmoore (911895) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688361)

Litigate. There is an overwhelming propensity for Americans to try and get around obstacles. When they try to do this mega corp see one thing only. They are trying to bypass their monopoly in that area. The sad part is some judge will probably shut down the project .

This is how the free market works (1)

gringofrijolero (1489395) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688365)

It's not about competition. It's about who's the last one still standing on top of the rubble. It's a demolition derby, not a yard sale

Re:This is how the free market works (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27688439)

Demonstrably false, as this is opposite of an example of a "free market".

And why has this suprised anyone? (5, Insightful)

JDAustin (468180) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688415)

Corporations have always used the power of government to stifle their competition. It has been this way especially since the advent of mercantilism 400+ years ago.

It was this way when the East India company was importing tea to England. It was this way with the railroads in the 1800's. It was this way under FDRs New Deal (which had the gove help big corps and put policies in place to screw over smaller ones). Its that way now.

The product may change over time but the methods used to bury your competition are ancient.

$99 per month ain't cheap!!!! (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27688459)

Do you really think that $99 is a good deal?
How much does TWC charge for similar service?

Re:$99 per month ain't cheap!!!! (5, Informative)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688575)

FTFA:

A comparable plan from Time Warner Inc., with six fewer channels (no Cartoon Network, Disney, The Science Channel, ESPNU, ESPN News, or ESPN Classic) and lower upload speeds costs $137.95, for an introductory rate, which lasts a few months and then will likely be ratcheted up.

Re:$99 per month ain't cheap!!!! (1)

tscheez (71929) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688629)

hmm, here I have 10M(in theory)/300K (actual), digital cable + extra HD and no phone service and it's $120 / month. with their phone plan it would be $30 more

So... publicly owned infrastructe do work, eh? (3, Interesting)

alexandre (53) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688473)

It does seems like it from the few working experiences that we have around the world [1,2]. I hope this is realized that we do need to guarentee a public network, maybe along the private one but nonetheless a good public network!

We need ISP agnostic fiber to the homes, now!

For those in Canada (note the "eh" in the title :P), give your voice below, the CRTC is asking for advise (for what it's worth...):

http://isppractices.econsultation.ca/ [econsultation.ca] (english)

http://pratiquesfsi.econsultation.ca/ [econsultation.ca] (franÃais)

[1]. http://cis471.blogspot.com/2009/04/why-is-connectivty-in-stockholm-so-much.html [blogspot.com]

[2]. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/04/shocker-aussies-to-build-own-open-access-fiber-backbone.ars [arstechnica.com]

So to everybody complaining ... (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688491)

For all those complaining about TW and Embarq's business practices, how many of you are currently using TW or Embarq - regardless of where in the country you are located? How many of you are planning to cancel your service along with a clear and concise letter stating that you are leaving them in disgust due to their conduct in North Carolina?

Re:So to everybody complaining ... (0)

Moderator (189749) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688619)

I have been an Earthlink subscriber for 11 years, and a TWC customer since Earthlink started offering broadband through TWC. Next month is my last month paying for either service. The threat of bandwidth caps here in Greensboro finalized it, and their practices in Raleigh have put the nail in the coffin. When I move to my new townhouse in June, I will get a 6.0Mbps down pipe from AT&T for $10 more/month than my 768 connection through Earthlink is costing me. Their shady business practices combined with their poor customer service does not need my money.

Re:So to everybody complaining ... (1)

denton420 (1235028) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688661)

I would cancel my service except they are the only provider in my area and I do not feel like using Hughes Net ;)

Re:So to everybody complaining ... (1)

Halo- (175936) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688669)

For all those complaining about TW and Embarq's business practices, how many of you are currently using TW or Embarq - regardless of where in the country you are located? How many of you are planning to cancel your service along with a clear and concise letter stating that you are leaving them in disgust due to their conduct in North Carolina?

Okay, so they write a fantastic letter, discontinue, and then go where? This is the crux of the issue. Businesses like TW and Embarq are virtual monopolies. In the case of this town (and many, many others) there is no other option. Either pay them, or use dial-up (which still would require a phone line provided by one of these people usually...) "Voting with your feet" is great, but in this case the only other option is standing outside in the cold.

Re:So to everybody complaining ... (1)

Vohar (1344259) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688737)

Problem with leaving in disgust is that in some areas there are no alternatives. At all. That's what is pissing some people off so much about this story--TWC is trying to have the government get rid of the only competition in that area. They want the government to -enforce- the monopoly.

Re:So to everybody complaining ... (1)

dragonard (261270) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688759)

When I lived in Wisconsin, I used TW copper but Earthlink internet access. (Yeah, I know, Earthlink sux, etc.). TW wasn't happy about it, but the local PUC said, "Either allow your competition to rent bandwidth, or go somewhere else kthxbye."

Re:So to everybody complaining ... (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688901)

Here's the problem . . . I don't have any other choices in my area. There's a great ISP in my town that is faster and cheaper but it does not cover my area. I suspect that is most of people's issue on switching.

Here I thought... (0, Flamebait)

mc1138 (718275) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688493)

Privatization is the only way to get good cheap services, and nothing the government provides or does is any good.

Re:Here I thought... (2, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688571)

and nothing the government provides or does is any good.

One could make the counter argument that we wouldn't have this duopoly situation to begin with if Government wasn't so involved in the marketplace. In most parts of the US I can't legally start my own cable or telephone company without signing a franchise agreement with the local government. Said agreements are virtually always exclusive and serve the purpose of shutting out competition.

Mind telling me what possible public interest is served by prohibiting me from rolling out my own cable service if I've got the capital and the wherewithal to do so?

what a ripoff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27688529)

i get 10/10 for 23$ a month, no traffic limit no p2p throttling or anything. fiber networks pwn coax ones big time

Another fine example of "free market capitalism" (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688557)

These are the same companies that scream "socialism" every time the government even HINTS at nationalizing anything, but the second they face any REAL competition they run screaming to the government to give them special protected status (with campaign donations and other bribes in hand). Their "free market" means "free for us to rape anyone we want market" and alternatives be damned.

Re:Another fine example of "free market capitalism (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688623)

Like everything in life, people only like something when it benefits them. When the government gets in the way, they cry to the public. When the public get in the way, they cry to the government.

Re:Another fine example of "free market capitalism (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27688777)

These are also the companies that scream for a bailout when their failed business model leaves them in the red...

$99? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27688613)

$99 for that? Come one, that's insanely expensive. For instance in France (thanks to a heated competition between ISP which _all_ have access to _all_ french phone lines, unlike the very communist-like local monopolies as in the US) for 30 euros (taxes included) they have: land line phone with free phone calls to a bit under a hundred countries, TV with hundreds of channels (some HD) and ADSL v2+ up to 20Mbps (and soon fios 100/50 for the same price). When you travel abroad you quickly realize that the US are the third world of Internet connectivity among developed countries. Of course anything Europe does more efficiently will be deemed "socialist"... Let's be pragmatic here and not ideological. What counts is how to have the best internet connection at the lowest global cost.

Democratic Socialism at Work for benefit of all (2, Interesting)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688673)

This is another example of how a socialist system run by the peoples representatives can do better than some private dictatorship run for the benefit of wealthy elite interests. This is because the city government is controlled by the people and is operated with consent of the people to provide services in the common interest and in the common good, at the highest quality and lowest cost. The purpose of corporations instead is to provide the worst service at the highest cost to enrich wealthy plutocrats that run them. Thats why the corporations adn wealthy elites through their Republican conservative ayn rand and rush limbaugh elitist pro-corporate totalitarian plantation slave labour admirer puppets will fight tooth and nail against anything that will benefit and improve the conditoons of the common people and give them control over their lives and make systems that benefit everyone, rather than exploit us for the mansions and yachts of a wealthy elite. This totalitarainists are clearly in control of North Carolina, being the neofascist Republican totalitarian state it is, and want to assure that the people are rupe to be raped by massive corporations and to destroy anything that gets in the way of exploitation of the people for benefit of elite yachts.

Their goal is to impoverish common people, starve people to death with slave wages and deny health care to the people so they can continue to expand their own wealth. since the 1980s this is whats been happening, with waes of common people falling, unemployment growing, and quality life falling, the only people who have gotten wealthier are the elite fat cats who control our economic system. When are we going to stop putting up with slave wages, high prices and lousy service so some arrogant CEO can sit on a yacht all day, and who considers that his birth right. A major cause of our present economic recession and as well the fact americans are dying because of lack of healthcare when every other country has universal health care coverage for less per capita cost, is that we have greed and an economic system rigged up by the wealthy and greedy elite to make themselves richer at the expense of everyone else. They own so much opf the economy that they control everything, people are under their control at their wal mart job, how much money adn what life they have is controlled, their health care is controlled, how much things cost is controlled. There is a hidden tax in everything we buy that goes not to help the poor but to pay for some greedy corporate elites yacht, this is the corporate overhead adn profit margins corporations put ine verything we buy which is made for cents in china and sold for hun dreds here, both impoverishing chinese and destroying american jobs, the only winners are corporate elitist fascists. ALL of this is done WITH NO CONTROL over it by the people. Unlike our government, the people have no voice in this corporations which have more power over peoples lives than government, and who actually buy the government through campaign contributions, dismantle all pro-consumer and pro-working class government regulations so corporations become defacto governments above the law. THus law becomes something ratheer than to protect peoples freedom, something to protect masive corporations like we see with RIAA and MPAA, at the same time government ignores the basic needs of people to food shelter, medical care and housing. The corporate system is one who only see people has having a value to expand and enrich corporations, they see people as things to be exploited, used and thrown away again and left to die when no longer useful to them. It needs to be replaced with an economic system for and by the common people, a democratic socialist system where we elect who runs the corporations who control the economy.

If It's Profitable... (1)

crymeph0 (682581) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688685)

Why does the city have to provide it? I hate hate hate the cable and telco companies, but the long-run result of allowing the feds/state/local govt to "compete" is usually the destruction of the private sector, resulting in the worst kind of monopoly, a government monopoly.

If there are laws that make it difficult for private sector companies to effectively compete with the cable and telcos, then those laws need to change. I completely understand the enthusiasm for these muni networks, because right now, they are providing a better deal than the entrenched oligarchs, but I really worry about the long-run effects of allowing the government to compete with private sector companies.

Government should not be a competitor to industry (3, Insightful)

tacokill (531275) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688785)

Do you want private companies having to compete with the government? Generally, past history suggests that is a bad idea. The government is a special entity with special powers so you have to be very very careful when you allow government to go into "profit based business" - which is what this is. Tax spending on services/infrastructure is one thing. Profit based business is an entirely different animal.

I have no problem with the idea of busting up the monopolies but you don't do that by making your government compete with private industry. No, instead you encourage OTHER private players to come in and compete with the monopoly (or you pass legislation, tax cuts, or whatever that does the same). If you insist on putting your government "in business", then you will eventually drive out all the other competitors aside from the government. Remember, the government can do LOTS of things that private industry can't so, by default, it's an unfair playing field. Look no further than the banking system right now for an example of how that plays out. Government was never designed to "be in business".

For a bunch of tin-foil hat guys, the slashdot crowd really puts a lot of faith in government solutions of all kinds.....
I hate Comcast as much as the rest of you. But I cringe at the idea of my city government being in the ISP business.

We need a constitutional amendment (1, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688791)

We need a constitutional amendment to kill this kind of crap once and for all.

Our legislative history is filled with special laws written to serve the interest of single parties and interests; especially business interests. One such law that really sticks in my mind was actually a U.S. Federal Constitutional Amendment called the "Wright Amendment." It wasn't enough to pass a law because the law, as intended, would have been ruled as UNCONSTITUTIONAL. So to prevent that from happening, they made it a part of the constitution. What was the "Wright Amendment?" Well you could google it to get better information than I can provide, but it was essentially a law designed to prevent Southwest Airlines and Dallas's Love Field airport from competing with American Airlines and D/FW airport. Think on this. A general law document designed and intended to LIMIT what the U.S. Federal Government can do, was used to impose limits on the level and quality of service that one air carrier can do in favor of another air carrier. In the end, it never worked. It did push airfares higher and for those who flew Southwest airlines (the only US air carrier that makes a profit while offering lower fares than competitors who are losing money while charging higher fares) required that they make stops before they reached their final destinations limiting the distance a single SWA flight could make when flying out of Love Field. This was written into an amendment to the U.S. constitution!! Think on it. It just doesn't get any dirtier than that.

A constitutional amendment should be written that government shall not write any law that favors one business, public, private or government, over the interests of another business public, private or government. It is far and away NOT the government's role to interfere with business except in cases where businesses harm the public. It is the government's job to protect the public.

Re:We need a constitutional amendment (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688889)

OOOPS! I was wrong. Let me be the first to recall my own statement. The Wright Amendment was not a constitutional amendment as I believed but an amendment to a law "International Air Transportation Act of 1979." Hate being wrong but you don't have to tell me...

Time Warner shouldn't have any trouble competing. (2, Insightful)

Lendrick (314723) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688795)

After all, Greenlight, being government-run, is by very definition grossly inefficient. Time Warner ought to be able to beat them on both performance and price and still have a wide profit margin.

Either that or maybe sometimes the government can actually provide decent, efficient services...

10 mbs up/down (1)

rwwyatt (963545) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688861)

Damn, I am lucky to get 400 kbps.. Some ass keeps stole my link to the outside world with a simple loaf of bread..

Perhaps I should have fed my passenger pigeons.

That's so AWESOME! (5, Insightful)

CHK6 (583097) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688867)

My city only offers water, emergency, and trash services. I have to come up with sewage, electrical, and gas services for myself. Never once did it occur to me to have internet service provided by the city.

But for the residents of Wilson, NC, the city to offer cable, internet, and telephone services too on a voluntary subscription base. That's FREAKING AWESOME! That's not only money well invested into the city infrastructure, but money the city can use after the initial investment has been paid for for other city services.

I might be a federal and state Republican, but I'm a local Democrat.

Here's the problem (1)

Java Pimp (98454) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688873)

We try to make smart financial decisions not only for shareholders but customers.

The fact that shareholders are even a consideration is a detriment to customer service. Shareholder and customer priorities are mutually exclusive. There is no way to adequately provide satisfactory results for both. Shareholders don't care about quality of service, availability, etc... In fact, they would prefer the least amount of service for the highest cost to the customer.

Profits need to be rolled back into the company to produce better service rather than lining the pockets of shareholders.

Utter BS (5, Informative)

ady1 (873490) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688909)

here is the link to the actual bill: http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Sessions/2009/Bills/Senate/PDF/S1004v0.pdf [state.nc.us]

In essence, what the bill is saying is that a govt provided internet service should be self-sufficient, unsubsidized and be applicable to all costs and taxes that a private organization is. It is not trying to establish a monoply but instead trying to take the unfair advantage away from a govt sponsored organization.

Here is the text from actual bill:

Requirements. â" A city that operates a public enterprise under G.S. 160A-311 that provides communications services to the public for a fee over a communications network that is directly or indirectly owned or operated by or provides a financial benefit to the city or another city shall meet the following conditions with respect to the provision of communications service:
  (1) Comply with all local, State, and federal laws, regulations, or other requirements that would apply to the communications services if provided by a private communications service provider.
(2) Establish a separate enterprise fund for communications service and shall use this fund to separately account for revenues, expenses, property, and source of investment dollars associated with the provision of communications service.
(3) Shall not subsidize the cost of providing communications service with funds from any other noncommunications service, operation, or other revenue source, including any funds or revenue generated from electric, gas, water, sewer, or garbage services. In complying with this requirement, a city owned communications service provider shall not price any communications service below the cost of providing the service.
(4) Shall, in calculating the cost incurred and in the rates to be charged for the provision of communications services, impute: (i) the cost of the capital component that is equivalent to the cost of capital available to private communications service providers in the same locality; and (ii) an amount equal to all taxes, including property taxes, licenses, fees, and other assessments that would apply to a private communications service provider including federal, state, and local taxes; rights-of-way, franchise, consent, or administrative fees; and pole attachment fees.
(5) Shall annually remit to the general fund of the city an amount equivalent to all taxes or fees a private communications service provider would be required to pay the city or county in which the city is located, including any applicable tax refunds received by the city owned communications service provider because of its government status and a sum equal to the amount of property tax that would have been due if the city owned communications service provider were a private communications service provider.
(6) Shall prepare and publish an independent annual audit in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles that reflect the fully allocated cost of providing the communications service, including all direct and indirect costs. The indirect costs shall include amounts for rights-of-way, franchise, consent, or administrative fees, regulatory fees, occupation taxes, pole attachment fees, and ad valorem taxes. The annual accounting shall reflect any direct or indirect subsidies received by the city owned communications service provider, and any buildings, equipment, vehicles, and personnel that
32 are jointly used with other city departments shall be fully allocated to the city owned communications service. The North Carolina Utilities Commission may adopt rules and regulations to ensure compliance with the provisions of this subdivision, and all records demonstrating compliance shall be filed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission and made available for public inspection and copying.

Monopolism that is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27688923)

what a price.. I get 20/20Mbps for just about 12$ in Ukraine(!)

Misleading summary (1)

ternarybit (1363339) | more than 4 years ago | (#27688927)

Reading the actual language [state.nc.us][PDF] of the proposed legislation doesn't lead to the conclusions presented in TFAs. Brian Bowman claims that the laws would prevent profits gained from city-owned broadband from benefiting non-communications-related services, when essentially the laws propose the opposite. It specifically prohibits the subsidization of communications services with taxes claimed from other sources. That is, one's property tax can't fund the communications service. If I don't want city broadband, why should I pay for it?

Furthermore the bill requires that the communications service pay all the regular taxes a private company would pay, which goes into the house fund and can be used for public expenditure. Even if the profits may not transfer directly to other city services, the taxes gained from the service do.

Sure, the bill requires the city to charge no less than its cost, but how is this a bad thing?

Now this does bother me. From the bill:

Shall, in calculating the cost incurred and in the rates to be charged for the provision of communications services, impute: (i) the cost of the capital component that is equivalent to the cost of capital available to private communications service providers in the same locality;

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this sounds like price fixing to me. The city has to charge at least what the other guys' cost is. If the state's cost is less, why can't they charge less?

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