Public investment, private profit? Broadband bill has serious flaws

The need is great, but the need to do it right may be even greater:

(a) A county shall have the authority to construct facilities or equipment of a broadband service as defined by G.S.62-3 for the purpose of leasing such facilities or equipment, in accordance with G.S.160A-272, to one or more lessees who are not a governmental unit as defined in G.S.160A-274.16. (b) A board of county commissioners may utilize ad valorem tax levies authorized under 17G.S.153A-149(c), grants, or any other unrestricted funds in exercising authority granted under this section.

Bolding mine, because caveats kind of piss me off. A few years ago, Republicans in the General Assembly basically outlawed municipalities from constructing and operating broadband networks, ostensibly because they represented "unfair competition" to private companies. Said companies lobbied the hell out of Legislators to make that happen, but since then have done little (or nothing) to bring broadband into areas that desperately need it. The above bill, as you can see, pulls the cost of construction out of the hands (wallets) of taxpayers, and gives whatever profits are made to private sector entities. What happens when said company starts raising rates above what people are willing (or able) to pay? I see no mechanism for the municipality in question to regulate that. There is also no mechanism for the municipality to take over operation in case of mismanagement, or if said private company decides to pull out of the lease agreement. In the absence of those mechanisms, this bill is terminally flawed.

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Comments

Bill has bi-partisan support

And several of the Democrats who co-sponsored are genuine progressives, not inclined to favor corporatism over people. If I am wrong about this (wouldn't be the first time), please set me straight.

Maybe the leasing contract

Maybe the leasing contract could be structured to claw back profits / revenues to the government. And if they build the system with the "purpose" of leasing it, that doesn't mean they actually have to lease it. The terms of the deal could be such that no private company wants to take over operations, in which case, the government would end up as the operator.

Just trying to think outside the box here. Good contractual language can go a long way toward solving sticky problems. And bad contractual language can be a stranglehold ... just look at Charlotte and the RNC contract. The city apparently left itself no wiggle room and now they seem to be stuck with an impending disaster.

I'd be more comfortable

if that stuff was included in the Legislation itself. I don't trust Republicans to not try to punish cities if they try to protect themselves, or their citizens, in these leasing contracts.