Changes are on the way for MI-Connection, the locally owned and operated communication system that serves Davidson, Cornelius and Mooresville.
Not only is the MI-Connection board of directors expanding, but the N.C. Senate is also hearing a case now that could affect the system's future growth.
The towns of Mooresville and Davidson decided in March to expand the board from six to nine members. Last week, the towns announced two current members, John Kasberger and Rick Howard, will resign effective May 1.
As of late last week, Davidson officials were expected to approve communications executive Brett Ellis of Huntersville to fill one of the vacancies.
Ellis would join current board members John Venzon, Ken Essex, Dawn Huston and Steve Miller.
Exiting board members Kasberger and Howard said while they no longer have the time to serve on the board of directors, they are proud of what they have accomplished.
"We have improved transparency. Also, we have begun the transition to an internally managed operation with local accountability," said Kasberger in a statement.
But the role of MI-Connection in the two towns might change over the next several months should a bill dubbed the "Level Playing Field/Local Government Competition Bill" pass in the N.C. Senate.
Senate Bill 87 (also called House Bill 129) would limit the ability of municipalities to operate a cable and telecommunications business. It passed in the N.C. House of Representatives late last month.
Although the bill does not apply to existing systems like MI-Connection, it could affect the company's ability to expand, said board member Venzon.
Local House representatives Thom Tillis, R-Cornelius, and Grey Mills, R-Mooresville, voted in favor of the bill. Neither could be reached for comment late last week.
Melissa Buscher, vice president of communications for Time Warner Cable Carolinas, said her company supports the bill because local governments should not have an advantage over private businesses.
Buscher noted local governments do not have to pay property or income taxes on their own telecommunications business like companies such as Time Warner Cable do.
In addition, Buscher said the situation creates a major conflict of interest in the telecommunications industry.
"A town has the ability to be the ultimate gatekeeper. They are essentially our regulator and our competitor," said Buscher. "We're not against competition in any sort of way, we just feel like we should operate under the same rules to create a level playing field."
But Venzon suggested the notion a small municipal company like MI-Connection would be that much of a threat to a company like Time Warner Cable was inaccurate.
"In this sense, claiming that we have an unfair advantage over one of those larger companies is like claiming that a small, local store in Davidson or Mooresville has an unfair advantage over Wal-Mart," he said.
Venzon added MI-Connection's affiliation with local government is - if anything - advantageous to larger telecommunication companies.
"Our meetings have to be open to the public, we have to make much of our work product and documents public and we are restricted as to what kind of borrowing we can do," said Venzon. "If this bill passes, companies like ours will also be subject to territory restrictions."
Buscher said the bill is not as restrictive as some people have suggested.
For instance, many people inaccurately think the bill will prevent areas that aren't served by the larger companies from receiving service from locally owned companies, she said.
"It does not apply to areas without a competitive market," she said. "It only applies to areas where there's already competition."
By April 5, the bill had passed its first reading and lawmakers had sent it to the finance committee for review.