Colorado Voters Continue To Shoot Down Awful Comcast-Written Protectionist State Law

from the get-the-hell-out-of-the-way dept

For some time now we've noted how one of the biggest reasons the broadband market remains uncompetitive is protectionist state law written by and lobbied for by incumbent ISPs. These laws take various forms, but usually they prevent towns or cities from building their own networks -- or partnering with private companies -- even in instances where the incumbent ISP refuses to service them. Nineteen such laws have been passed, and an FCC attempt to pre-empt these laws on a federal level was recently scrapped by the courts as over-reach, leaving the issue as problematic and unresolved as ever.

One ray of hope in an otherwise dismal and contentious election for technology comes out of Colorado, where numerous local Colorado communities voted to ignore SB 152, a 2005 state law lobbied for by Comcast and CenturyLink, which required communities jump through numerous, intentionally onerous hoops should they want to simply make decisions regarding their own, local infrastructure. Unlike most of these laws, SB 152 lets local communities issue a referendum to ask voters if they wish to reclaim the right to make these decisions.

As a result, each election season we've seen more and more local Colorado communities vote to tell incumbent ISPs they're tired of the dysfunctional broadband status quo. In this week's election, all 26 of the municipal broadband-related referendums on the ballot in Colorado communities, including Aspen, were approved by relatively wide margins:
"Results from ballot initiatives varied by modest degree but all left no doubt that the local electorate want out of SB 152. Breckenridge came in with 89 percent. Montezuma County, where local media expressed support of the opt out earlier this month, passed the measure with 70 percent of the vote. The community with the highest percentage of support for opting out of SB 152 was Black Hawk with 97 percent of votes cast. The lowest percentage of "yes" vote was Woodland Park in Teller County with 55 percent. The average "yes" vote was 76 percent.

...Before this election, 22 counties and 47 cities had already voted to shed themselves of SB 152. The majority of these communities did not gently reach out and pick up local authority - voters snatched it back with 70, 80, and 90 percent of votes cast. Clearly they want options beyond the national cable and DSL providers.
Historically, incumbent ISP lobbyists, think tankers, and other paid mouthpieces have tried to intentionally sow dissent by framing municipal broadband as a partisan issue. But time and time again we've noted how most of these city-owned networks are being built in Conservative markets, and being tired of shitty, uncompetitive broadband is certainly not a partisan concept. But ISPs have consistently been successful in having politicians claim they're only looking out for the taxpayer, while ignoring that letting giant, incumbent telecom operators write awful state law is a horrible idea.

That said, Colorado is an outlier in that most laws of this type don't really let towns and cities vote to ignore the rules. As a result, most of the states that these laws have been passed in (like Tennessee) have become broadband backwaters, where broadband service is as slow -- and expensive -- as ever before.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    JLofty, 9 Nov 2016 @ 2:55pm

    *remains* ?

    remains competitive or *un*competitive?

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

  • icon
    MDT (profile), 9 Nov 2016 @ 3:39pm

    Statewide Referendum

    I wonder if it might be worth it, in states that have constitutions that allow it, to start trying to get referendums on the elections to vote to repeal these lobby written laws?

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

    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 10 Nov 2016 @ 3:39am

      Re: Statewide Referendum

      I think you'll start seeing a push this direction. In large part because many telcos are giving up on residential DSL, meaning that the incumbent cable providers are only going to get stronger and have a broader monopoly.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2016 @ 9:22am

      Re: Statewide Referendum

      Problem is fighting the lobbies. Comcast and their friends, the other media giants that are writing these laws, have huge chests to fund their fight. Meanwhile we're at great risk here in Colorado of politicizing the issue and turning it into a football that one side comes back to strengthen in waves.

      We've got to find a way to permanently make this a liberty issue however those deep deep pockets are presently aligned against it

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

  • icon
    Brian (profile), 9 Nov 2016 @ 3:44pm

    "The lowest percentage of "yes" vote was Woodland Park in Teller County with 55 percent."

    That's probably because of a small, local ISP that services the area offering gigabit speeds.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Nov 2016 @ 5:16pm

    Thank you for pointing out that local communities have a way of avoiding our protectionist laws. We'll commence lobbying to have the laws rewritten without delay.

    Sincerly,
    Big ISP Company

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 9 Nov 2016 @ 7:40pm

      Re:

      Beat me to it/great minds think alike.

      Obviously the only proper response to votes like this is to remove the ability of local voters to decide whether or not they should be bound by the law, such that the state government, who of course knows better in all matters will be able to better protect the people within their state from the dangerous 'alternatives' to the paragons known as Comcast, AT&T and similar.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2016 @ 5:04am

    The politicos can pass all the laws they want, doesn't make them constitutional, doesn't make them enforceable.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2016 @ 7:03am

    This continues to beg the question, and I've asked it over and over again. If this is truly a democracy and politicians are truly representing the will of the people, why do governments continue to pass (or try to pass) laws that the people obviously do not want!!!!

    This list can be extended to

    Gene patents (ie: Monsanto)
    Overreaching IP laws with insane lengths and insane retroactive extensions (that were only lobbied for by corporate interests. I do not remember ever seeing large groups of citizens protesting in favor of expanding and extending these laws though I do remember seeing large groups of citizens protesting against TPP and SOPA).

    Limits on broadband and cable competition

    Marijuana prohibition (not that I endorse using it unless there is a valid medicinal reason, but I also don't endorse the government prohibiting it if the citizens want it legalized)

    among other things.

    Why does government pass all these bad laws that the people obviously don't want and then we must be the ones to burden the expense of starting state petitions to shoot them down.

    It gets worse on the federal level as there is no official petition process to change laws we don't like and we are essentially stuck with those laws.

    This is supposed to be a democracy but it seems the only ones that get represented by politicians are corporate interests and if we want to change that we must go through the effort ourselves of starting petitions to maybe get the laws changed assuming they aren't federal laws.

    This 'democracy' is a fake.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2016 @ 7:04am

      Re:

      (and I also don't ever remember seeing petitions passing in favor of passing, expanding and extending IP laws).

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2016 @ 7:11am

      Re:

      (and yes, there is that joke called changed.org but it's not even legally binding and so the president seems to mostly just ignore it).

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2016 @ 8:31am

      Re:

      "This 'democracy' is a fake."

      This is not a democracy. Once you can figure out the proper word to use, then learn its definition you might be able to figure out a few more things in life! As opposed to running around using the wrong words to bitch about a situation you do not understand!

      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
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: I Invented Email
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.