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House exempts Salisbury from broadband bill

RALEIGH — Members of a state legislative committee overwhelmingly exempted Salisbury on Wednesday from a bill that would restrict the ability of cities to build broadband networks like Fibrant.
The House Finance Committee voted 26-1 to exempt Salisbury and four other communities that already have broadband networks up and running. N.C. Rep. Harry Warren, R-Rowan, reintroduced his amendment to exempt the cities after a similar measure that passed last week contained an error.
While Warren’s amendment passed by two votes last week, today only N.C. Rep. Mike Stone, R-Sanford, voted against it.
“It was an amazing win in the David and Goliath fight,” said Salisbury Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell, who attended the hearing with Councilman Brian Miller, City Manager David Treme, Assistant City Manager Doug Paris, Director of Fibrant Services Mike Crowell and Jason Parks, who manages Access 16, the local government channel on Time Warner Cable. He videotaped the hearing, and it will appear on the city’s website.
Also at the hearing were Robert Van Geons, executive director of RowanWorks, the local economic development agency, and the city’s new lobbyist, Tom Fetzer.
Salisbury and other cities are fighting the cable lobby which backs House Bill 129. Cities are competing with private companies to provide Internet, cable TV and phone services. Salisbury says the legislation would have hampered the city’s ability to sell broadband, finance upgrades and repay the $30 million the city borrowed to build Fibrant.
The bill passed the committee 21-9 and will head to the House floor. A similar bill awaits in the Senate, where Salisbury will advocate for the same exemption, Paris said.
“Today was a victory for Salisbury,” Treme said.

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