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Google fights for muni broadband

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Google and Intel have voiced their opposition to a bill in the state legislature that would severely restrict the ability of local governments to set up broadband operations ("Anti muni-broadband bill moves forward," June 13). Both companies wrote letters to House Speaker Joe Hackney on June 18 regarding HB 1587, currently before the House Finance Committee.

The bill is backed heavily by the telecommunications and cable industries, including lobbyists for Time Warner and Verizon, who say local governments have an unfair advantage in competing with private industry because they do not pay taxes. The N.C. League of Municipalities and several North Carolina cities, including Chapel Hill and Greensboro, have opposed the bill, which they say would make it practically impossible for cities to provide high-speed Internet and other broadband services, even in rural areas where private companies have no plans to do so.

Opposition from Google and Intel is significant in part because North Carolina has used tax incentives to aggressively recruit those companies to set up shop in the state.

In his letter, Google's state policy counsel John Burchett emphasized the company's support for public-private partnerships to deploy technology for economic development. He pointed out that North Carolina currently ranks 41st among states in broadband adoption and 47th in growth of broadband subscriptions since 2002, according to a study by the Federal Communications Commission. "Google believes that North Carolina should be lowering barriers to public broadband initiatives rather than establishing new ones, so that more high tech companies, like Google, can spread across this beautiful state."

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