Colorado Residents Vote Overwhelmingly In Favor Of Municipal Broadband

from the deconstructing-protectionism dept

Colorado is one of roughly twenty states where incumbent ISPs like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, CenturyLink, and AT&T have quite literally purchased protectionist state telecom laws that prohibit towns and cities from building their own broadband networks, or in some cases even partnering with private industry to improve existing ones. Only after a fifteen year nap did the FCC recently announce it was going to pre-empt such laws in Tennessee and North Carolina, something that was immediately met with hand-wringing and lawsuits from the broadband industry and its allies.

In Colorado last week voters got the chance to side step that state's awful protectionist state law, SB 152. SB 152 was a 2005 product of lobbying from Comcast and CenturyLink, and required communities jump through numerous hoops should they want to simply make decisions regarding their own, local infrastructure. Like all such laws the ISP pretense was that they were simply looking to protect taxpayers from financial irresponsibility, though it's abundantly clear the real goal was to prop up and protect the dysfunctional broadband duopoly status quo.

Over the last few years ballot initiatives have allowed several Colorado communities like Boulder, Montrose, and Centennial to take back their right to determine their infrastructure needs for themselves. Last week 43 Colorado communities - 26 cities and towns; 17 counties -- all voted overwhelmingly to also ignore Comcast and CenturyLink's law moving forward. And in all of them, the vote wasn't even close:
"This year, results were similar as the majority of voters supported local measures with over 70 percent of ballots cast. In Durango, over 90 percent of voters chose to opt out of restrictive SB 152; Telluride voters affirmed their commitment to local authority when over 93 percent of votes supported measure 2B. Many communities showed support in the mid- and upper- 80th percentile."
ISPs were able to pass twenty such laws in large part because, by framing community broadband efforts as "socialism run amok" and a dangerous infringement on free enterprise, they were able to distract the public with its own partisan bickering. But the reality is that there's nothing partisan about letting communities decide for themselves their best path forward. Similarly, most municipal broadband networks have been built in Conservative cities, suggesting that wanting next-generation networks in the face of market failure has pretty sensible bipartisan support.

Again, these networks wouldn't be getting built if locals were happy with their broadband options. But instead of competing and improving their networks, mega-ISPs threw campaign contributions at state legislatures, who were more than happy to help protect these uncompetitive broadband fiefdoms and ensure these contributions kept flowing. Fortunately, with the rise of Google Fiber and other ad-hoc deployments (like from Tucows) these bills have seen renewed attention, thanks to the fact that low ROI areas need public/private cooperation if they're even to be updated.

Of course Colorado's awful state law still exists, and it's absurd that Colorado towns and cities have to head to the ballot box (and spend additional money on referenda) simply to reclaim their local rights. Still, between the FCC's attempt to set precedent in North Carolina and Tennessee, and Colorado's decision to stand up to the mega-ISPs, it looks like fifteen years of apathy to this kind of broadband protectionism is finally coming to an end. If you're curious, check out this great map by Community Networks -- detailing which towns have embraced community broadband, and which states have passed protectionist laws.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 11 Nov 2015 @ 12:01am

    The mists are clearing, the image is coming through...

    You don't have to be a seer to guess what kind of response this is going to garner from those that bought the law in the first place. Comcast and CenturyLink will make a few calls, which may or may not mention dollar amounts, and soon enough there will be another law proposed that forbids towns and counties from 'opting out' of state laws like is being attempted here.

    For the public of course, as clearly they're just too incapable of making their own decisions, and need to be protected from themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 11 Nov 2015 @ 5:21am

      Re: The mists are clearing, the image is coming through...

      The good news is that this is getting harder to do. They were only able to do this in the first place because the press was totally apathetic to these kinds of stories for ten years. That's changed. I see municipal broadband talked about all the time now, thanks in large part to the attention Google Fiber drives...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 12 Nov 2015 @ 4:09pm

        Re: Re: The mists are clearing, the image is coming through...

        I lived in Colorado in 2005 and I don't remember hearing anything about it. Though I didn't follow these things as closely then.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2015 @ 12:24am

    We should all get to vote.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 11 Nov 2015 @ 10:12am

      Re:

      We should all get to vote.

      We shouldn't have to in the first place! Our elected representatives are *our* elected representatives and shouldn't be selling protectionist favors to special/corporate interests for campaign donations (or hookers & blow).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2015 @ 12:47am

    Protectionism: Leveling the playing field for the few at the top so the ball will stay where it is - and they can happily do nothing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2015 @ 4:09am

    David and Goliath

    Pity the small town that dares to try to install its own fiber-optic cables (after waiting years on ISP promises) and gets pulverized by Comcast's army of lawyers and lobbyists.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2015 @ 4:52am

      Re: David and Goliath

      The correct response is to haul Comcast over the coals for its theft of taxpayer dollars through the USF.

      But, y'know, corrupt, dollars, envelopes.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    cypherspace (profile), 11 Nov 2015 @ 4:23am

    ISPs were able to pass twenty such laws in large part because, by framing community broadband efforts as "socialism run amok" and a dangerous infringement on free enterprise, they were able to distract the public with its own partisan bickering.
    They are loathe to admit this but in reality, the situation is "socialism" for the ISPs (via taxpayer subsidies), rugged individualism for everyone else. But what makes me really laugh about this is some of these muni broadband networks are legit co-operatives and are actually run as such.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2015 @ 5:13am

      Re:

      I find it both amusing and troubling that so many in the US do not know what socialism is, or any other political doctrine. To them, socialism means anything they do not like.

      Well, having the government build infrastructure for the benefit of all is not by itself indicative of any sort of political system. You like those interstate highways? How about your running water or electricity.

      And - no - a city providing for its occupants a service that private business ignores because it will not bring them enough profit - is not, by itself, socialism.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Karl Bode (profile), 11 Nov 2015 @ 5:20am

        Re: Re:

        We're not bright in that way. Many think "repairing bridges so they don't fall into the water while driving on them" is a vile example of socialism.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2015 @ 6:11am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Hitler built roads* so let's stick it to the Nazis by letting our own infrastructure collapse!

          *The autobahn was originally an idea from Weimar Germany. So even this tortured logic doesn't add up.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2015 @ 5:43am

        Re: Re:

        Because so many people on left have been spending a whole lotta time saying everything that is socialism is not socialism. And you might find that a lot of folks on the right are loving them so socialism here and there, and by all means don't even dare accuse them of it...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    scatman09 (profile), 11 Nov 2015 @ 4:54am

    This just replaces 1 monolopy, duopoly (Comcast & CenturyLink, etc. for another (Colorado's Municipal Broadband), and thus, still doesn't fix the problem. Remember the problem--LACK OF COMPETITION?

    When are the people of a US city gonna man up and rewrite the ISP competition laws so that every ISP (Comcast, TimeWarner, CenturyLink, SuddenLink, Cox, et. al.) can simultaneously provide service to its citizens? WILL WE EVER SEE TRUE COMPETITION IN THE ISP SPACE?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2015 @ 5:15am

      Re:

      "WILL WE EVER SEE TRUE COMPETITION"

      ftfy

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2015 @ 5:20am

      Re:

      There are essentially two types of municipal broadband.

      A city can either run it as its own (monopoly) ISP, or can basically allow the system to act as a pass-through service (much like the owner of a home network router) that allows residents to connect to a choice of several different internet service providers, including, presumably, Comcast.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 11 Nov 2015 @ 5:41am

      Re:

      Unless they plan on ripping out the networks of Comcast and CenturyLink(very unlikely), then it's not replacing a duopoly with a monopoly, it's adding another player to the game. The networks of the current companies are still in place, there's just an addional option available.

      Suddenly Comcast and CenturyLink aren't just 'competing' with each other on who can screw the public the most, they're facing the very real threat that unless they up their game people will shift over to the public broadband option.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 11 Nov 2015 @ 9:17am

      Re:

      You're right!

      I'm sure municipal run ISPs will be just as horrible as municipal water projects.

      At least people demand competition in the important area of municipal water. Oh, wait.

      Maybe a municipal ISP would be like municipal water. Good ISP service for all at a reasonable price.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Andrew D. Todd, 11 Nov 2015 @ 10:22am

        Re: Re:-- Private Profit Water. (to DannyB, #27)

        Well, of course, we know what the private business form of water looks like. There are a few places where the water supply is run by a company.

        Charleston, West Virginia, Thursday, Jan 9, 2014. Freedom Industries, a private chemical company, which has been cutting corners on its storage tanks, dumps poison (4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM)) into the Elk river. A mile downstream, the poison goes into the intake of the water plant, run by West Virginia American Water, which has been cutting corners on its water intakes. Three hundred thousand people are suddenly without water. There is a run on the convenience stores, and supplies of bottled water are soon exhausted.

        "I wish I could say a time," [the WVAW manager tells the people], "but I can't."

        A third of a million people are left to their thirst.

        However, the United States Army comes in to supply drinking water. The Army maintains supplies of equipment for camping out on a large scale, such as tank trucks designed expressly for drinking water. It is the job of the Army to pick up the pieces when profit-seeking businessmen create disasters.

        Come, you worshipers of Comcast, won't you have a swig of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM)?

        -------------------------------------------------------
        Ken Ward Jr., "300K lack water in Southern W.Va.," Charleston Gazette, Friday, Jan 10, 2014

        http://www.wvgazettemail.com/News/201401100028
        -------------------------------------------------- ----

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Elk_River_chemical_spill
        ------------------------------------- ---------------------

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2015 @ 5:11am

    "it's abundantly clear the real goal was to prop up and protect the dysfunctional broadband duopoly status quo."

    wowm thank god we do not have
    "a dysfunctional POLITICAL PARTY duopoly status quo"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2015 @ 5:40am

      Re:

      Considering how idiotically stupid the republican debates have been, we might just collapse into a single party+independants (with a singularity of dumb off to the side) if this keeps up.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2015 @ 5:29am

    is not this the only reason we have a government???
    "but WHO would build the roads???"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shill, 11 Nov 2015 @ 7:15am

    But ... but ... but.... I thought the people liked all these corporate bought laws. When the corporations wrote them they were only thinking of the public. Now the public shows their appreciation by rejecting the laws that these corporations worked so hard to write and spent so much of their own hard earned money to pass because they were so adamant about doing the public a favor? What a bunch of unappreciative ingrates.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2015 @ 7:18am

    Re AC 16

    Isn't it the dems who have been completely idiotic and stupid lately? Who needs the "safe spaces", who doesn't know if they should use the mens or ladies room, who doesn't feel "safe" if there is an opposing viewpoint in the classroom, who needs to seek counseling if they see a Halloween costume they don't like? That's all on the left dude.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2015 @ 7:52am

      Re: Re AC 16

      As opposed to:
      1) pyramids were made by Joseph to store grain
      2) immigrants are rapists
      3) unemployment could be eliminated by removal of the minimum wage
      4) people just need to work harder
      5) cutting taxes for the rich benefits the poor
      6) cutting SNAP releases poor people from bondage
      ........

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2015 @ 8:03am

        Re: Re: Re AC 16

        Can we all finally just agree that everyone is stupid, including ourselves and the people we agree with?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2015 @ 8:18am

      Re: Re AC 16

      As opposed to right wingers who FREAKOUT because a multinational corporation fails to affirm their religious beliefs on a coffee cup?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Brian (profile), 11 Nov 2015 @ 8:51am

    Anyone find it odd that Comcast is not rolling out it's "fairness" program in any Colorado locations? /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 11 Nov 2015 @ 9:19am

    Who should be the new target of lawsuits?

    Only after a fifteen year nap did the FCC recently announce it was going to pre-empt such laws in Tennessee and North Carolina, something that was immediately met with hand-wringing and lawsuits from the broadband industry and its allies.

    So who should be the target of the lawsuits this time? The voters?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 11 Nov 2015 @ 7:17pm

      Re: Who should be the new target of lawsuits?

      Probably not the voters themselves(though I wouldn't put it past them), but I could totally see Comcast and/or CenturyLink trying to tie up or toss out the votes under some procedural trick or simply claiming that it doesn't matter what the votes were, the state wide law(that they purchased and wrote) takes precedence.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        tqk (profile), 12 Nov 2015 @ 9:36am

        Re: Re: Who should be the new target of lawsuits?

        ... but I could totally see Comcast and/or CenturyLink trying to tie up or toss out the votes under some procedural trick or simply claiming that it doesn't matter what the votes were, the state wide law(that they purchased and wrote) takes precedence.

        Well sure, and injunctions, countersuits, appeals to higher courts or related officials who'll file appeals and injunctions for them, and lawyers fees are a tax deductable business expense so it helps lower their taxes, ...

        i) You've got to wonder who they think they're fooling with all of this.

        ii) They don't fsckin' care what anybody thinks. It's all legal, so ptheh. Meanwhile they clean up and pay the paltry fine if it ultimately goes against them. Oh, and capitalism.

        Either one or both or some of each of that's right out there in plain view. Fells like meedieval England or Paris or Rome or Moscow. Plus ca change, ...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2015 @ 4:34pm

    They're all stoners argument in three, two, one.........

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jonas, 11 Nov 2015 @ 11:55pm

    A warning about city owned Internet service

    We have a great setup in Sweden where I can choose from 10-20 providers via fiber or copper in most cities.

    The reason for this is that many towns have chosen *not* to step in as access providers for consumers, but rather offered infrastructure as in black-fiber and hubs so that you lower cost of entry to become an ISP/IAP.

    Our AT&T was early on forced into open up the ASDL switches and that created a demand for fiber as a similar service.

    Some cities offer Internet but its hard for them to compete with cities where there are more options. This also opens competition and some ISPs offering more privacy or the best in netflix benchmarks.

    We still have trouble, and lots of issues, but competition is doing quite well.

    /jonas

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.