10 Nov Communities fight state laws that can divide broadband access
Jason Bissette could throw a sweet potato from his office here in eastern North Carolina, where he and his family oversee nearly 3,000 acres, to their newest barn.
But despite his wishes, Mr. Bissette cannot extend the high-speed broadband from the office to his barns, either by wire or Wi-Fi, an upgrade that would help him monitor his sweet potatoes and tobacco.
The problem is that his office sits in Wilson County, where a municipal power company has built a high-speed fiber-optic network. The barns, however, sit in Nash County. And a three-year-old state law prohibits the city of Wilson’s utility from expanding its broadband network outside its home territory.
“The technology is right there across the county line,” Mr. Bissette said on a recent afternoon, after plowing up a field of sweet potatoes for harvest. “If we could get the service, we could make sure the temperature is right, that air is circulating. It would make life a whole lot simpler.”
In North Carolina, as in 18 other states, state laws limit municipalities from building or expanding high-speed Internet service networks. The reason behind those laws, supporters say, is to limit taxpayer exposure to projects that at times fail and for which there may be little demand.