Intense multiyear lobbying campaign by Time Warner Cable, AT&T, CenturyLink, and others to bar communities from building their own better, more affordable networks

Millions of dollars bought restrictions that encourage cable and DSL monopolies rather than new choices for residents and businesses


After a city in North Carolina built a Fiber-to-the-Home network competing with Time Warner Cable, the cable giant successfully lobbied to take that decision away from other cities.

The city of Wilson’s decision and resulting network was recently examined in a case study by Todd O’Boyle and Christopher Mitchell titled Carolina’s Connected Community: Wilson Gives Greenlight to Fast Internet. The new report picks up with Wilson’s legacy: an intense multiyear lobbying campaign by Time Warner Cable, AT&T, CenturyLink, and others to bar communities from building their own networks. The report examines how millions of dollars bought restrictions that encourage cable and DSL monopolies rather than new choices for residents and businesses.

Download The Empire Lobbies Back: How National Cable and DSL Companies Banned The Competition in North Carolina.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Common Cause present this follow-up report co-authored by Todd O’Boyle and Christopher Mitchell. It took several years, but Time Warner Cable, CenturyLink, and AT&T finally succeeded in 2011 in their quest to stifle municipal broadband. The new restrictions make new public deployments virtually impossible in North Carolina.

Big cable and DSL companies try year after year to create barriers to community­‐owned networks. They only have to succeed once; because of their lobbying might, they have near limitless power to stop future bills that would restore local authority. North Carolina’s residents and businesses are now stuck with higher prices and less opportunity for economic development due to these limitations on local authority.

It certainly makes sense for these big companies to want to limit local authority to build next-­‐generation networks. What remains puzzling is why any state legislature would want to limit the ability of a community to build a network to improve educational outcomes, create new jobs, and give both residents and businesses more choices for an essential service. This decision should be made by those that have to feel the consequences—for better and for worse.

Read ongoing stories about these networks at ILSR’s site devoted to Community Broadband Networks.  You can also subscribe to a once-per-week email with stories about community broadband networks.

About ILSR: Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) proposes a set of new rules that builds community by supporting humanly scaled politics and economics. The Telecommunications as Commons Initiative believes that telecommunications networks are essential infrastructure and should be accountable to residents and local businesses.

About Common Cause: Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest. www.commoncause.orgat&tbroadbandcase studycenturylinkgreenlightlobbyingmunicipalmunicipal broadbandmunicipal networknorth carolinapreemptionsalisburytime warner cabletriple playwilson

4 Responses

  1. becky sJanuary 3, 2013 |Thanks for a timely posting on this issue. I live in Raleigh NC, & it is maddening to see two fiber optic stub ups on our property and not have affordable access to it. My hope is that we can bring this issue to the forefront of city utility services, just like water & sewer, & make intelligent choices that have beneficial economic effects beyond the provision of the service itself.
  2. Greg VinsonJanuary 4, 2013 |Thanks for reporting on the latest outrage by these scumbag industry giants; good job. We have to stop them; they, along with the likes of Darth Murdoch are a real threat to democracy in America, and the internet companies are hurting our attempts to become competitive as a nation when it comes to high speed internet, which we are way behind in, due to the likes of Comcast tying our hands.
  3. Eric BischoffJanuary 4, 2013 |In more ways than one. Time Warner just removed Current TV from their roster because Al Jazeera bought Current. If Time Warner wants a war they are going to get one. That behavior is exactly why we don’t want these media giants to control the internet which is where TV is headed.
  4. Eric BischoffJanuary 4, 2013 |I wish all cities would control their own cable infrastructure which they could use to generate revenue from the media companies who want to deliver content. Otherwise the consumer has no choice. They are monopolies especially in less populated geographical areas.