Comcast Tries To Stop Colorado City From Even Talking About Building Its Own Broadband Network

from the Comcast-knows-what's-best-for-you dept

We've noted for years how giant ISPs have literally written and purchased protectionist laws in more than twenty states restricting towns and cities from building their own broadband networks. Many of these laws even go so far as to restrict these towns from striking public/private partnerships with companies like Google Fiber, often one of the only options for areas incumbent ISPs have declared not-profitable enough to serve. In this way giant ISPs get their cake and eat it too: they don't have to expand service, but make sure nobody else can either.

Colorado's SB 152 is one such law. 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 (an idea often lacking in ISPs' daily business efforts), though it's abundantly clear the real goal was to prop up and protect the dysfunctional broadband duopoly status quo from anything vaguely resembling change or competition.

However, 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 and ignore the restrictions SB 152 imposes. Rather unsurprisingly, residents angry at substandard service from the likes of Comcast have been overwhelmingly opting out of the restrictive state law. Again -- not because they think building a network will be fun -- but because they're so disgusted by incumbent service they feel they have no other option.

Fort Collins is the latest city to this week vote on opting out of SB 152. To be clear: opting out of the law's restrictions only opens the door to the possibility of building a network or striking public/private partnerships. But the incumbent ISPs like Comcast that bought the law have spent more than $200,000 to prevent that conversation from even happening:

"Politics is an expensive game, but when an oligopoly is at stake, there's no price tag too high for Big Telecom. In Fort Collins, Colorado—a town of about 150,000 north of Denver—Big Telecom has contributed more than $200,000 to a campaign opposing a ballot measure to simply consider a city-run broadband network. It's the latest example of how far Big Telecom is willing to go to prevent communities from building their own internet and competing with the status quo.

"It's been wild," said Glen Akins, a Fort Collins advocate for municipal broadband. "We're overwhelmed by the amount of money the opposition is spending."

That spending, which is breaking local records, has included TV spots -- funded by an ISP policy front group -- that make numerous, misleading arguments about what locals are actually voting on. The ads try to conflate being allowed to have a conversation about the idea with actually moving forward with a plan. The ads also falsely claim that if the city of 150,000 moves forward with such a project, road repair, affordable housing, and other priorities in the city would suffer (also not true since the project would be funded by service revenues and utility bonds that couldn't be used for these other services):

What's Comcast so afraid of? The idea of city-owned or public/private partnerships have opened the door to open access networks in many cities, where ISPs come in and actually compete over core infrastructure. Like Ammon, Idaho, for example, where users can switch between multiple ISPs in seconds if they're not getting the speeds, prices or customer service they'd prefer. Actual competition obviously would mean a notable erosion in Comcast revenues:

"Evidence from other cities suggests that a real choice in broadband services could reduce Comcast's revenues by millions of dollars per month," the group, which advocates for municipal broadband projects, wrote in a policy brief. "Competition in Fort Collins would cost Comcast between $5.4 million and $22.8 million per year. In Seattle, robust competition would cost between $20 million and $84 million per year."

It's worth repeating that Comcast could prevent towns and cities from going this route by simply offering better service and lower prices. But in a country where incumbent telecom companies all but own state legislatures (as we just saw in Michigan), it's often much less expensive to write and purchase a law. Or in this case, spend half a million dollars to mislead consumers, preventing them from even having a conversation about creative paths toward better, faster, cheaper broadband.

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Filed Under: colorado, competition, fort collins, muni broadband
Companies: comcast

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  1. icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 7 Nov 2017 @ 7:22am

    you know... with the what... 1 to 2 Billion USD (with a B) revenue from MJ taxes, I am sure Colorado could afford to build a substantial network itself.

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

  2. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 7 Nov 2017 @ 7:26am

    $200,000 vs $22,800,000

    "Competition in Fort Collins would cost Comcast between $5.4 million and $22.8 million per year. In Seattle, robust competition would cost between $20 million and $84 million per year."

    Just let those numbers sink in for a moment. Between five point four to twenty-two point eight million for Fort Collins, and between twenty million to eighty-four million in Seattle. If that's what they stand to lose with actual competition in the market, then that's roughly how much they're currently overcharging the people in those cities.

    It's no wonder they're flailing around and spending like mad to buy ads filled with lies and fear-mongering, actual competition stands to cut into their cushy profits heavily, and simply buying a few politicians(who tend not to care about being lied to so long as the lies come with large 'donations') isn't working as well as they're used to.

    Hopefully enough people see through their lies and give them a giant middle finger in the form of voting for local networks to provide some decent service, such that they either step up their game or watch their profits take a dive.

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

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Nov 2017 @ 7:41am

    "Real Eyes
    Real Lies"

    God speed to Colorado City's municipal broadband project, and every other local municipal broadband solution!

    Boycott, bend over, or local competition (municipal broadband): the only 3 options when dealing with the ISP monopoly monsters

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Nov 2017 @ 8:55am

    The fixed wireless technology and related industries, when fully developed, will walk all over wired ISPs. Buy your tickets, your popcorn, and reserve the limo. This is gone be good.

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

  5. identicon
    DOoG, 7 Nov 2017 @ 9:05am


    The exception to that rule would be when latency is critical. Wireless is too laggy for any low-latency application (gaming, real-time monitoring, etc)...

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Nov 2017 @ 9:10am

    I think there should be a public advertisement that runs on the same networks as Comcast's ad that simply says something like "You know that commercial telling you municipal broadband is bad for you? That was funded by Comcast." and that's it.

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Nov 2017 @ 9:16am


    unfortunately, wireless will not because it has less data capacity to serve all customers in a cell than a single core in a fiber bundle. The way that wireless capacity can be increased is to make the cells smaller, but that ends up with a fiber being run into every house, so might as well do away with the wireless bit.

    With fiber, want more capacity, run in more fibers.

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

  8. icon
    JoeDetroit (profile), 7 Nov 2017 @ 9:24am


    You think? It's possible. But cheaper? Doubtful. They will want even more money for fixed wireless.

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

  9. icon
    Get off my cyber-lawn! (profile), 7 Nov 2017 @ 9:31am

    Jerry Lee Lewis voice

    Don't THINK about broadband!
    Don't TALK about broadband!
    Don't THINK about TALKING about broadband!

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

  10. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 7 Nov 2017 @ 9:40am


    ... I love it. Short and sweet, it could be done on a minimal budget but would have the potential to completely undermine Comcast's lies.

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

  11. icon
    Ninja (profile), 7 Nov 2017 @ 9:43am

    Re: $200,000 vs $22,800,000

    And simply buying politicians doesn't stick as well as it did in the past, you need to convince the customers that screwing themselves is a good thing.

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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous tortured media consumer, 7 Nov 2017 @ 9:48am

    If you live on the front range --

    You are submitted to that commercial every break. If they spend half the money on upgrading our infrastructure that they're spending on that commercial, they could build out Gig in a small town.....
    Maybe I exaggerate, but not by much. THANK GOD FOR DVR's

    PS ComCast and the local dsl provider both SxxK.

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

  13. identicon
    Mr Anonymuse, 7 Nov 2017 @ 9:51am


    I think anyone with 1/4 a brain has already figured that out. I also think that commercial was designed for someone with 1/8 a brain.

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

  14. identicon
    Thad, 7 Nov 2017 @ 10:29am

    FYI, since Colorado City is the name of an actual city, you probably don't want to use that phrase as a generic term to mean "a city in Colorado".

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

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Nov 2017 @ 11:51am

    Re: Re:

    Unfortunately brain size doesn't influence intelligente. Wales have the biggest brains, but no culture. But thinking of it, they also don't watch comcast ads

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

  16. identicon
    Daydream, 7 Nov 2017 @ 2:48pm

    I didn't properly read the article.

    I just saw the title, went 'Comcast is being stupid again', and clicked on the video to watch it.

    As a result, when I saw the bit about traffic not moving, I thought it was leading into a metaphor about what Comcast's internet 'service' does to regular users.

    When I think 5 seconds into an ad sponsored by Comcast 'is this a metaphor for Comcast's incompetence?', maybe they need to fire their advertising agency.

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

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Nov 2017 @ 11:16pm


    Something like "$500.000 for ads, and no broadband"?

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

  18. identicon
    David, 8 Nov 2017 @ 2:24am

    And this is why higher education has to remain a privilege

    Telcom lobbying and advertising is just a microcosm of the U.S. political system: the U.S. is founded in corporatism and capitalism, and as a political framework that means you should be able to throw money at a problem to make it go away.

    There is some concern about democratic parts of the system endangering such principles, but as long as large amounts of Americans are kept stupid because a good education is unaffordable (and actually even bad education is becoming increasingly unaffordable), buying ads in order to get political results through purportedly democratic means is going to work well enough.

    Unfortunately, the war against broadband is not the only war going forward by banking on the stupidity of American voters.

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

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Nov 2017 @ 2:45am

    Re: Re: Re:

    That's a bit harsh on the welsh!

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

  20. identicon
    David, 8 Nov 2017 @ 2:53am

    Re: I didn't properly read the article.

    Uh, the advertising company is hardly at fault, they have to concoct a campaign akin to "the sun is cool".

    But their task is not to convince intelligent people. They only need 50% of the voters, and focusing on intelligent people as a target in the U.S. would be a waste of time even if they weren't the hardest to convince.

    Don't forget: this is the country electing Trump for president.

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

  21. identicon
    carlb, 8 Nov 2017 @ 9:12am

    Re: Wales

    Yes, but their prince has goofy big ears and cheated on Princess Diana with Camilla Parkyerballs. If that doesn't attract jokes, what would?

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

  22. identicon
    Groove, 8 Nov 2017 @ 9:17am

    Re: Re:

    I didn't have broadband access where I used to live, and I was able to set up a 4g LTE modem and game with reasonable ping. Around 70-80 to blizzard servers.

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

  23. identicon
    carlb, 8 Nov 2017 @ 9:26am

    Why does this remind me of Matty Moroun and the Détroit bridge?

    Same poop, different pile.

    Détroit television has been saturated for years with bizarre adverts claiming that the proposed bridge taking Ontario Highway 401 into Delray, Detroit, Michigan is "a bridge to nowhere". These ads are bankrolled by Matty Moroun, a billionaire who owns the existing Ambassador Bridge and holds a monopoly on heavy truck traffic which can't take the tunnel.

    So where is this "nowhere" he's babbling about? The 401 is the backbone of the beaten-path Windsor-Québec corridor. It runs from Windsor-Detroit through Toronto and Montréal (as Québec Autoroute 20) and toward Québec City. It's the busiest road in Canada, if not in all of North America (based on the average daily traffic at its busiest point, the 400/401 "basketweave" crossroads - 14 lanes of Toronto chaos). It joins the two largest cities in Canada.

    Because the Canadian cable TV companies uplink Détroit local stations to satellite, these ads are appearing on screens in remote Canadian backwaters thousands of kilometres from Windsor-Détroit, where no one has any idea what Moroun is babbling on about or why.

    Meanwhile, fully a quarter of all export merchandise trucked out of Canada crosses at this one single point of failure called Détroit. That's an economic disaster waiting to happen should anything sever the road. Bill Ford alone is sending 600 trucks a day across, and Chrysler is almost twice that. The bottleneck has huge economic consequences, to the point where former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper agreed to buy Detroit a bridge (at Canuck taxpayer expense, repaid eventually through road tolls) if they'd just shut up and get the damned thing built. The Windsor-Essex Parkway was completed in 2015, but we're still waiting for bridge construction to begin?

    That's what happens when money talks and places roadblocks (in this case, perhaps literally) to progress.

    This campaign looks to be a page from the same playbook.

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

  24. identicon
    ColoradoDan, 8 Nov 2017 @ 11:13am


    It would be nice if they could reclassify the type of revenue that MJ taxes are. It is an excise tax which is usually overlooked when the funds are actually dispersed.

    The first $40 million collected each year from the excise tax goes into BEST – the Building Excellent Schools Today fund, which will back construction projects to renovate or replace deteriorating public schools
    More than $18 million went to the Department of Public Health and Environment to fund many different programs. They include the Marijuana Education Campaign ($7 million), a state-run program that “encourages young Coloradans to think about how their goals will be easier to achieve without marijuana.” Another $6.7 million went to substance abuse prevention grants.
    The Department of Agriculture received $3 million for pesticide control, inspection services, 4H and FAA programs and other services.
    The Attorney General’s office received more than $1 million, including $286,766 for a special prosecutions unit.
    The Department of Education received $8.4 million for a variety of initiatives, including programs to stop bullying at schools and reduce the number of school dropouts. About half of the money went to the Early Literacy Competitive Grant Program.
    The Governor’s Office received $216,944, most of which funded the Office of Marijuana Coordination.

    I'm proud to be a citizen of Colorado during this time, we are blazing trails. Literally and figuratively.

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

  25. identicon
    ryocoon, 8 Nov 2017 @ 1:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: latency

    While 70-80 ping is fine for WoW (MMO), possibly for Diablo 3, Starcraft, or Heroes (Action RPG, strategy, MOBA), not so good for Overwatch or CS:GO (FPS)

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

  26. icon
    RedMoxy69 (profile), 9 Nov 2017 @ 7:34pm

    Comcast Vampires

    Perfect timing 4 this article, We're at WAR W/Ccast atm.& 2 the mattresses w/corporate vampires there, went all the way up. If any1 has a moment,contact them in support, please say, "VAMPIRES, QUIT SUCKING UR CUSTOMERS HEATHER KEVIN GARCIA DRY IN S. FL. DRY & WITH GOOD REASON COMCAST WAS VOTED MOST HATED CORPORATION OF 2017" PLEASE & THANK YOU!!!

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

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