Do ISPs Deserve Protection Against Competition?

If the "Level Playing Field" bills do pass, Greenlight would be exempt from the new laws; however, under the proposed legislation, other North Carolina communities seeking to imitate Greenlight's success would be saddled with the extra burdens outlined in the bill. Although municipalities would be exempt from the proposed restrictions if a high-speed Internet provider didn't exist in their community or the local provider's service was available to fewer than 80 percent of households in that community. The two bills define high-speed Internet in accordance with the federal definition, which is 200Kbps in at least one direction (downstream or upstream), according to the Federal Communication Commission.

For several years, municipal broadband projects have been a controversial issue for communities, politicians, and large cable providers. Time Warner Cable in 2005 attempted to stop North Kansas City, Mo from implementing its own broadband network, and Philadelphia has faced similar difficulties during its ongoing saga to implement a free, citywide Wi-Fi network. Despite the fact that companies continue to rally against municipal Internet projects, the federal government recently allocated $7.2 billion in federal funds toward broadband stimulus that could resurrect municipal broadband and Wi-Fi projects across the country.

While arguments continue in the U.S. over the best way to achieve broadband service for all, other industrialized countries are already moving ahead with plans for national high-speed Internet service. Australia recently instituted a project to have broadband Internet at speeds of 100Mbps available to 90 percent of Australians by 2018 and South Korea is shooting for a national service of 1Gbps by 2013. The United States ranks 15th out of the 30 member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in terms of broadband access, and consistently scores poorly in other studies of broadband access among industrialized nations.

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