This Week at the Capital shared the following information regarding House Bill 431 (FIBER NC Act): This bill would allow counties and municipalities to build and lease facilities and equipment to increase broadband services. The bill was filed on March 21st and referred to the Committee on Energy and Public Utilities on March 25th.

This statement represents the Winston Salem Chamber’s formal opposition to HB 431. The Chamber advocates for the best business environment in our region as it relates to economic development, fostering a strong workforce, infrastructure needs, and work-ready programs that benefit employers. The FIBER NC Act provides additional taxing authority to counties and municipalities to pay for construction, maintenance and operation of their broadband facilities. This is not in the best interest of our members and will not be a benefit to our community.

The Chamber supports fiscally responsible initiatives to accelerate the growth and development of the State’s critical infrastructure arenas, such as transportation, aviation, and communications upgrades. We are also aware of the need for broadband access in rural areas. Although we encourage and support private sector infrastructure projects, we do not believe that granting and permitting municipal entities the ability to directly compete with private sector businesses will help us maintain a competitive business climate. Based on empirical examples in other states, HB 431 could lead to barriers to entry in the marketplace, delays in permits, and exorbitant costs passed on to taxpayers. It would also create conflicts of interest between the government and the private sector. The government could be a direct competitor that would also control entry into market, location setting, regulations, and permits. This is not a level playing field for North Carolina businesses, and not a bill we can support.