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Legal Battles over Muni Broadband

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Legal Battles over Muni BroadbandThe city of Wilson, North Carolina had a victorious Tuesday as the settlement of a yearlong lawsuit against the areas cable/telco association was done in its favor. The company is heading the Fiber-To-The-Premises municipal broadband of the city and is represented by Time Warner Cable. This is one of the biggest rivals of Wilson’s muni broadband service.

Time Warner had asked for broadband stimulus grant of nineteen million dollars and the release of confidential records of the project. Tough the bid was rejected; the city of Wilson made the documents available and also paid the company twenty-five thousand dollars in legal fees.

Wilson is known for its successful muni broadband services, one of which is the Greenlight Community Network that offers phone and TV services, and an Internet having speeds of 100Mbps. On the other hand Time Warner had a much lower speed, when the company was asked why it didn’t have competitive rates to offer, it replied that it didn’t realize the area would need or want a faster service.

As is typical in businesses, Time Warner tried to have Greenlight and other related projects finished off by trying to ban the muni broadband in North Carolina. It had a bill passed by the Senator that basically asks to ensure that citizens of a locality are supporting the local government that is competing with privately owned companies in the provision of communication services. Fortunately for the city of Wilson, by the time the bill reached the Governor’s desk, there were no city FTTP strictures to be found to allow such a suspension of muni fiber.

Without wavering in their attempt to oust Greenlight due to this loss, Time Warner continued with it agenda of pressurizing Greenlight by going against its application for a broadband stimulus grant. It argued that since it covered over 50% of homes in the specified area, 40% of which were their broadband subscribers, Greenlights request for grant to provide service in the same area was not justified.

This resulted in the refusal of the grant by the North Carolina Cable Telecommunications Association, along with this they asked for the stimulus application to be handed over by Greenlight. When they were met with a rejection of their demands, a lawsuit was filed, and following a bunch of legal battles, the city of Wilson was forced to hand over the documents.

While most private telecommunication and cable companies are commonly seen in court in an attempt to avoid the divulgence of private information, it’s a shame that Greenlight was forced to fork over confidential material to a contender.

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