back to article Brave telco giants kill threat of decent internet service in rural North Carolina

A rural community in North Carolina says it will have to pull the plug on its broadband service over fears it will no longer be protected by the FCC. The city council in Wilson, North Carolina has voted to disconnect local broadband service in the nearby community of Pinetops following the 6th Circuit Court's ruling that the …

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    Cooperate

    Why doesn't the Pinetops community operate a cooperative to buy out the municipal infrastructure and run the wifi themselves?

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Cooperate

      That may very well be their next step.

      Or they have already researched this and the price to connect to the nearest back haul carrier was extortion and anti-competitive priced by same company cost too much.

    2. Fan of Mr. Obvious

      Re: Cooperate

      Sounds like a good suggestion, but "As of last November, the unemployment rate in Edgecombe County was 9 per cent, and median household income was $33,892" makes the proposition seem unlikely.

      My guess is the city will sell the infrastructure to Comcast (or similar) or a local startup.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Cooperate

        'Sounds like a good suggestion, but "As of last November, the unemployment rate in Edgecombe County was 9 per cent, and median household income was $33,892" makes the proposition seem unlikely.'

        Chicken or egg?

  2. Alumoi

    Only in US

    So in the land of the free and home of the brave local communities are forbidden to look after, you know, the local communities?

    What's next? Local council can't provide water and sanitation?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Only in US

      Gotta dig your own well, bubba.

    2. Jeroen Braamhaar

      Re: Only in US

      Regarding water: Flint, Michigan.

      Land of the Free ... to move someplace where bigcorps offer you services rather than sue your council to take it away. :(

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Pirate

        Re: Only in US

        "...to move someplace where bigcorps offer you services rather than sue your council to take it away."

        And where the hell might that be?

        Canada eh?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Only in US

          AC, "Canada eh?"

          We live in the forest, in Canada, and we have Fiber To The Home, a small miracle in itself. For complicated reasons involving niche channels not available on fiber, we still get our TV via satellite (not fiber).

          Telephone and Internet (200 Mbps) service was getting up to $142 per month, with regular price increases every few months.

          So I've just had a Fiber TV PVR added to the service. Now have the 'triple play' of telephone, Internet, and now TV. Just $129 per month (cheaper). Speed goes up to 300 Mbps (faster). Price locked in for two years (better).

          The Fiber TV PVR just sits in my basement. It's not even connected to a TV. It just sits there saving me money and making the Internet 50% faster. Crazy idiotic marketing folks.

          We still get our TV from satellite.

      2. StudeJeff

        Re: Only in US

        The water in Flint, Michigan is supplied by the government.

        I live in a semi rural area in North Carolina, have solid, high speed internet, reliable electricity and good water, all provided by private companies.

    3. goldcd

      Socialism!!

      Both Pepsi and Coke, proud american institutions supply water.

      There's already choice and the intervention of a local government is destroying the free market, with their "all you can drink" offering.

      1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        Re: Socialism!!

        "Both Pepsi and Coke, proud american institutions supply water."

        Pah. Everyone knows that Brawndo is better than water. It's got Electrolytes!

    4. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Only in US

      Cuz community is really just gawdamm commie-nism. You can tell because it's got "commune" in the root of the word!

      Jesus commanded that all true believers should have a free market and no damn gubmint enter, inter, interfe, no messing with business!

      Cuz gubmint is what's forcing business owners to hire illegals who take our jobs!

      And guns! And abortions!

    5. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Only in US

      What's next? Local council can't provide water and sanitation?

      Google it and you will find that many U.S. local govs already do this or variations of this.

      You have problem with Corporate Communist Capitalism©®™, comrade?

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only in US

      Let me start by staying that I'll be the first to slag off the Merkins, whether they deserve it or not.

      But no, not only in the US. About ten years ago we saw exactly the same thing here in Europe, with exactly the same outcome.

    7. SVV Silver badge

      Re: Only in US

      "What's next? Local council can't provide water and sanitation?"

      You mean like in the UK where these serices have been sold off for 20 years, to cmpanies that generate profits for shareholders rather than replace old leaking water mains?

      See also : East Coast mainline railway, taken back into public ownership after company running it bailed out, now embarassingly profitable so of course has to be re-privatised as soon as possible as it offers proof that public ownership is sometimes better than monopolistic "free market" privatisatiun when it comes to essential public services.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only in US

      "So in the land of the free and home of the brave local communities are forbidden to look after, you know, the local communities?

      "

      Well, in the land that they left to go and persecute some heathen Indians, a certain supermarket made it clear to our local council that they would be bankrupted by legal fees if the supermarket wasn't given planning permission. It took many years before the promised "improvements" were actually carried out around the site.

      Fortunately the town centre survived but there is still one supermarket chain that I would only enter after a zombie apocalypse.

    9. Barry Rueger

      Re: Only in US

      So in the land of the free and home of the brave local communities are forbidden to look after, you know, the local communities?

      I'll remind you that this is one of the basic rules of modern "free" trade agreements - no government may pass a law that infringes on corporate profits.

      Do so and you'll be frogmarched to an "independent" tribunal that will forcefully remind you that mere governments are NOT allowed to infringe on multinational corporations.

    10. StudeJeff

      Re: Only in US

      No, governments can't compete against private business.

      It makes perfect sense. Governments can have legal monopolies, have law enforcement and law making authority. They can also subsidize a service and undercut the prices of private business at the expense of the local taxpayers.

      Having that ability also puts the private business at tremendous risk. Would you want to invest millions of dollars (or pounds in the case of the UK) in building up an infrastructure only to have a local government come along and put you out of business?

      1. ratfox Silver badge

        Re: Only in US

        Governments can have legal monopolies, have law enforcement and law making authority. They can also subsidize a service and undercut the prices of private business at the expense of the local taxpayers.

        The situation here is rather that the government is the only entity willing to provide the infrastructure (and the local taxpayers are willing to pay for it), because private businesses do not want to provide it for such a low ROI.

  3. Vector

    Isn't it time...

    So, this is yet another article which makes me wonder at what point we, in the US, come to understand that an internet connection is as important to modern life as roads are and proceed with nationalizing the infrastructure. There are too many examples like this where profits dictate access.

    1. Pirate Dave
      Pirate

      Re: Isn't it time...

      I wouldn't rush to nationalize anything as important as network access. That seems a dark path to a dim future.

      But it would be nice if Congress would weigh-in and maybe pass a Federal law to pre-empt the state laws that the Monopolies bought 20-30 years ago that forbid this sort of thing. I'm usually dead-set against the Feds dictating to the States, but in this case, the state laws are just a racket designed to keep the fat-cats fat, not to help their citizenry.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Isn't it time...

        Don't forget that the Monopolies also bought the congress critters so there is no hope there.

      2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: Isn't it time...

        But if it's a local state law, why doesn't the local state just change it ?

        1. David Neil

          Re: Isn't it time...

          Where do you think the campaign contributions for all those state elections come from?

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Isn't it time...

      HA! Are you fucking kidding?! The U.S. doesn't even think basic health care is a right!

    3. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Isn't it time...

      ' in the US, come to understand that an internet connection is as important to modern life as roads are and proceed with nationalizing the infrastructure'

      Having seen the state of US roads I'm not sure that would help...

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    The US constitution is wrong

    when it says,

    We, the People....

    It should now read

    We, the Mega Corps ....

    Paris because even she'd know that this is wrong.

    1. Red Bren

      Re: The US constitution is wrong

      Corporations are people too. Except they can't die or go to gaol for their crimes...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Headmaster

        Re: The US constitution is wrong

        Extra merit for "gaol"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The US constitution is wrong

          In the 1950s UK children's comics used mostly "jail" - and only occasionally "gaol". For many years I misread the latter as "goal". I suppose it was suggesting a place that made things captive.

      2. AndrueC Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: The US constitution is wrong

        Corporations are people too. Except they can't die or go to gaol for their crimes...

        ..or be taxed.

  5. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

    Oligarchy

    Well, at least we aren't Canada.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/06/29/canada_openmeida_digital_rights/

  6. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

    Bozeman

    The local community is getting around this by installing fiber trunks throughout this rural town but not actually providing the internet access. They are inviting ISPs to use the fiber (at a nominal cost) to connect households. Hopefully this will eventually provide some competition to the local telco and cable company.

    This doesn't help anybody in the sticks however.

  7. ecofeco Silver badge

    Corporatism looks just like Communism

    You have problem with Corporate Communist Capitalism©®™, comrade?

    Maybe time in financial Siberia change your mind, yes?

  8. MR J

    Too much corruption in the good ole USA.

    Best fix for this would be for providers to pay a penalty if they cant deliver a service fast enough.

    They tried to put cable into the town I lived in, but the mayor sold DirectTV service so he quickly stopped that from happening.

  9. Mikel

    Not legit

    Comcast and company have no legitimate business interest in preventing people from having a service they have no intention of selling them, ever.

  10. Araxian

    business perspective

    A company who has a rural area that wants service, has to weigh the cost of delivering that service vs how much the will make from population. Simple fact companies are their to make a profit, especially publicly traded ones, they are not charities.

    So say they have a fiber trunk 40 miles away, its very expensive to run 40 or even 20 miles of fiber, plus all the infrastructure, between 100's of thousands to millions depending on terrain. So if the total income from customers from that area is less than 50% in most cases or 30% in some cases per year. it would take 5 or more years just to break even on the investment. which regardless of want, its a bad investment unless some government (local, state or federal) subsidizes the difference.

    1. Gray
      Holmes

      Re: business perspective

      I understand that history is a bunch of boring shite ... but here's a quick reminder. Isolated rural communities were denied electric service in the early decades of the last century. A somewhat less corporately-owned Congress (using universal Postal service as a guide) decided that America would benefit from universal electrification. So they passed a bill creating the Rural Electrification Administration, which in turn offered low-interest loans so rural communities and groups could form "co-operative" ventures to borrow money to build infrastructure to provide electric service where, in every instance, the corporate electric companies had refused.

      Later, that concept was extended to provide telephone services.

      Very soon thereafter, the corporate electric companies cried "Foul!" and lobbied Congress to end the "unfair subsidies" to "competing local governments" that were siphoning off potential profits in growth areas that were prospering with their new electric and telephone infrastructure. In some areas, private companies exerted strong political and legal pressures to force a "takeover" of existing co-operative ventures. After all, the build-out was accomplished, the investment made... why not pluck a bit of low-hanging fruit.

      Sadly, that is no longer possible as regards America's digital age. Even here on our island, sitting adjacent to a rich urban region, we have only pockets of high-speed internet access and scattered cell-phone coverage. Our few local communities are totally locked-in to the 30-year old cable franchise monopoly.

      Seeking social progress in America is equivalent to spitting in the wind to bring drought relief. Actually, the spit may bring slight improvement, compared to the other.

    2. Steve Todd Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: business perspective

      Do you not see the difference between it being unprofitable for a company to provide a service and the company getting laws passed to prevent local residents providing the service for themselves?

      Either it's not profitable, in which case the company should have no interest in the area, or it is, in which case they should be providing a decent service.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: business perspective

        There's the third option: that it's CONDITIONALLY profitable, that is profitable if and only if they alone control it. If anyone else gets it, that's competition that could later intrude on their existing business (making it counterproductive). So for them only two states are acceptable: THEIR control or NO control.

  11. Araxian

    Business Perspective

    A company who has a rural area that wants service, has to weigh the cost of delivering that service vs how much the will make from population. Simple fact companies are there to make a profit, especially publicly traded ones, they are not charities.

    So say they have a fiber trunk 40 miles away, its very expensive to run 40 or even 20 miles of fiber, plus all the infrastructure, between 100's of thousands to millions depending on terrain. So if the total income from customers from that area is less than 50% in most cases or 30% in some cases per year. it would take 5 or more years just to break even on the investment. which regardless of want, its a bad investment unless some government (local, state or federal) subsidizes the difference.

    1. Gray
      Holmes

      Re: Business Perspective

      So if your company decides not to make the investment, it becomes judicious to protect your economic future by lobbying against any effort by the people to provide for themselves? Unless you can loan them the money at junk-bond interest rates, and demand a right of first refusal to purchase the infrastructure "at cost" once it's been built out? That's the business model that made America great, right?

    2. Adrian Midgley 1

      Social perspective

      the job is to connect everyone. That's what the money is for.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Business Perspective

      What is your point? So they don't build. That's fine. But that does not give them the right to prevent others from building.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where private money and lobbying are permitted Big Business and Government are the same thing and run by the same people. How else do tax cuts for the wealthy and Big Business make sense while simultaneous tax increases for the middle class and loss of public services make sense? https://citizenactionmonitor.wordpress.com/2015/05/07/what-neoliberal-capitalists-dont-want-you-to-know-about-how-they-rule-the-world/

  13. jonnycando

    I think...

    the problem here is how current law is written. Where commercial interests ought to have preference in supplying a service, let's say; It should also be understood that unless and until that commercial provider comes in and expresses the willingness and is awarded the necessary public convenience franchise, that either the local government being of the people and by the people and for the people, might provide that service...or a local public service cooperative may obtain the franchise.

    Of course current law is not nearly so useful, but laws can be changed....if folks will get their dander up and come running into the streets demanding their rights.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: I think...

      "Of course current law is not nearly so useful, but laws can be changed....if folks will get their dander up and come running into the streets demanding their rights."

      But the only way to do that is to risk their livelihoods, meaning it's a dilemma. Not much good to march on Washington only to find your employer packed up and left in your absence. It's one reason any mass protest like Occupy Wall Street fizzles these days; protests generate headlines but they don't pay the bills.

    2. APraxis

      Re: I think...

      Quite right, if the telcos refuse to provide a specific service then there is no competition hence no validity in stopping the muni or co-op from providing that specific service.

      Further, if, once the muni/co-op has established a service, the telco must be (not should be) required to reimburse the muni/co-op for their entire cost of developing the service infrastructure which then is applied to a reduction of muni taxes or a direct cash payout to co-op members.

  14. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    LUS fiber

    We had a similar situation in Louisiana some years ago when COX and AT&T joined forces to try and prevent the city of Lafayette installing fibre for its residents - the big companies eventually lost the battle and Lafayette finally got high-speed internet. The city is now a high-tech hub with a lot of new industries and (surprise) offers twice the speed for half the cost that we pay in Baton Rouge 50 miles away.

  15. I Like Heckling

    Obviously the law needs changing

    If there is no free and fair competition available to consumers, then there is no willingness from commercial operators to install/upgrade the infrastructure.

    So these kinds of exemptions/bars on publicly installed/owned networks have to be ruled illegal and states/districts overruled by central govt.

    The only exemption that I'd say was acceptable is when there are at least 3 different suppliers in a city/district/town and there is a more fair and competitive service available.

  16. EveryTime

    What is the value of a monopoly right to serve?

    A good question to ask is 'what is the value of an exclusive right to serve'?

    That's what the state and local governments are giving to telecom providers.

    The right to a monopoly is always worth something. Without a matching obligation, typically a universal service requirement, a private company isn't going to give up that monopoly. Even if they have no plans to provide service, ever, the option to do so without competition has value.

    In the case of internet service, it can have substantial value. The cost to wire a regular residential block is a little over $1K per house. In our area it's about $1K/year for the minimum cost internet service, after the introductory teaser offer expires. With no competition, you can't alternate introductory offers. Wireless internet is available, but too costly to be considered competition.

    But it gets better. In our area, they won't wire up new houses for free. They know that internet is a hard requirement for many people. So they charge $1K-$2K per pole to extend service. I've known people that pay $10K up front for internet, and others that won't pay the $40K quote but are suffering because of it. It's possible to allocate fixed costs so that can be justified to the regulators, but that's 3x or 4x a realistic increment cost. They'll profit on the install, then profit on service over that infrastructure for decades. Given that potential, what's their motivation to build out on their locked-in monopoly?

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: What is the value of a monopoly right to serve?

      The real question is why is this even legal?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What is the value of a monopoly right to serve?

        "The real question is why is this even legal?"

        The Golden Rule. Whoever has the gold makes the rules.

  17. thesykes

    It seems obvious that laws that prevent locals from clubbing together and providing a service that big business won't, should be scrapped. Then big business should be told to compete with the locals, based on quality of service and low cost.

    But, big business buys the politicians through "campaign donations", so it won't ever happen.

    Land of the free? No. Land of the bought and paid for political puppet.

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