Colorado Voters Shoot Down Comcast's Shitty, Protectionist State Broadband Law

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

For years we've noted how large ISPs like Comcast quite literally write and buy protectionist state laws preventing towns and cities from building their own broadband networks (or striking public/private partnerships). These ISPs don't want to spend money to improve or expand service into lower ROI areas, but they don't want towns and cities to either -- since many of these networks operate on an open access model encouraging a little something known as competition. As such it's much cheaper to buy a state law and a lawmaker who'll support it -- than to actually try and give a damn.

And while roughly twenty three states have passed such laws, Colorado's SB 152, co-crafted by Comcast and Centurylink in 2005, was notably unique in that it let local towns and cities hold local referendums on whether they'd like to ignore it. And over the last few years, an overwhelming number of Colorado towns and cities have voted to do so, preferring to decide local infrastructure issues for themselves instead of having lobbyists for Comcast dictate what they can or can't do in their own communities, with their own tax dollars.

Yet another vote on this front was held this week in Colorado Springs. Note that the vote only opened the door to letting city voters consider building such a network, yet Comcast and Centurylink broke local spending records in their attempts to scuttle the ballot initiative. That included numerous misleading videos trying to convince locals that if they voted yes on ignoring the protectionist state laws, the city would struggle to pave roads and develop affordable housing.

According to the Coloradoan, none of these efforts worked:

"Voters on Tuesday approved a city proposal that would permit the City Council to establish a telecommunications utility to provide broadband services. Unofficial, partial returns as of 12:42 a.m. showed the measure passing with 57.15 percent of the vote. Ballot Question 2B does not require the council to create the utility. It gives council flexibility in setting up a business model for providing high-speed internet, including entering into a partnership with a private company."

Again, this doesn't mean Fort Collins will build a network. But it should be obvious why large duopolies like Comcast (which is actually seeing a growing monopoly in more regions than ever) want to prevent towns from even discussing the idea. Actual competition would put an end to Comcast's long-standing ability to charge more and more money (including usage caps and overage fees) for what's quite literally the worst customer service in America. And as telcos in countless markets refuse to upgrade aging DSL lines, Comcast's power is only growing.

Like net neutrality, for years Comcast successfully framed municipal broadband as a partisan debate to sow discord and stall these efforts. But disdain for Comcast's abysmal service obliterates such partisan divides, and over time people have realized that more creative, government-involved approaches are necessary if we want to compensate for a broken market and improve the country's mediocre broadband. If Comcast doesn't like the idea of towns and cities getting into the broadband business, there remains an ingenious solution to the "problem": provide better, cheaper, and faster service.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Nov 2017 @ 6:34am

    Just wait until Google Fibber hits town!

    With citizens taxed for millions to build out
    the network that's then sold to Google for $1.

    It'll be dawn of a new age. The 4th Reich.

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

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 9 Nov 2017 @ 6:45am

      Re: Just wait until Google Fibber hits town!

      You forgot to sign in wiLLie.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Nov 2017 @ 8:09am

      Re: Just wait until Google Fibber hits town!

      I'll pay more in taxes to cut into Comcasts bottom line.
      That's a no brainer.

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

    • icon
      ralph_the_bus_driver (profile), 9 Nov 2017 @ 9:13am

      Re: Just wait until Google Fibber hits town!

      I can pay millions for the government to supply the service or tens of millions in fees for a private business to supply the same service.

      I can complain to my local politician about the government service. The private business doesn't care if I complain.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 9 Nov 2017 @ 10:51am

        Re: Re: Just wait until Google Fibber hits town!

        I can pay millions for the government to supply the service or tens of millions in fees for a private business to pinky-promise that they will supply the same service at some point. Probably.

        You left out a few words there. Being paid for the job does not actually mean that it will be done, as the companies in question have made quite clear in the past.

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

  • identicon
    Jason, 9 Nov 2017 @ 6:41am

    which city?

    In the paragraph before the quote, Colorado Springs is mentioned as the city that voted. After the quote (and in the linked article itself) it's Fort Collins.

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

    • identicon
      Seam, 9 Nov 2017 @ 7:51am

      Re: which city?

      I was thinking the same thing. I got a little confused. I just looked at an article from the Denver Post today. Fort Collins passed this two years ago, but just okayed spending tax dollars to explore starting a city owned broadband provider.

      These are the cities that voted to opt out of SB 152


      Eagle County: 85 percent
      Boulder County: 82 percent
      Alamosa: 71 percent
      Avon: 83 percent
      Dillon: 74 percent
      Eagle: 85 percent
      Fort Lupton: 66 percent
      Georgetown: 76 percent
      Greeley: 61 percent
      Gypsum: 85 percent
      Idaho Springs: 70 percent
      Kremmling: 88 percent
      Louisville: 82 percent
      Manitou Springs: 84 percent
      Minturn: 81 percent
      Monte Vista: 61 percent
      Silverthorne: 85 percent
      Snowmass Village: 90 percent
      Vail: 85 percent

      Colorado Springs voted in April to opt out. They voted yesterday to invest in city owned broadband.

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

    • icon
      jupiterkansas (profile), 9 Nov 2017 @ 7:51am

      Re: which city?

      it's Fort Collins

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

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 9 Nov 2017 @ 6:44am

    They make millions... try to convince local muni it is a losing bet. Gotta love those Telcos. /s

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Nov 2017 @ 6:56am

    the sad part

    is the fact that the measure did not win in a massive landslide.

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

    • icon
      jupiterkansas (profile), 9 Nov 2017 @ 7:52am

      Re: the sad part

      Propaganda works.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Nov 2017 @ 8:04am

        Re: Re: the sad part

        The reply by Seam above suggests it doesn't work that well. Most cities did remove the restrictions by a landslide.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 9 Nov 2017 @ 8:29am

          Re: Re: Re: the sad part

          well THAT is some good news then! I was only seeing the 57% from the prelims posted in the article... glad to see more slam bam no fucking thank you ISP ma'am going on here.

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

    • icon
      ralph_the_bus_driver (profile), 9 Nov 2017 @ 9:48am

      Re: the sad part

      There will always those who buy into the idea that government doesn't work. Then there will be those who unfailingly accept the advertising as true.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 9 Nov 2017 @ 7:04am

    You have to offer a pretty shitty service to get people in the US to vote for the Govt to provide said service.

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

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 9 Nov 2017 @ 7:27am

    Comcast goofed

    The problem is they let voters decide. Just pay off your politicians better so that they don't put pesky little loopholes in those laws... unless they favor the rich.

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

  • identicon
    David, 9 Nov 2017 @ 8:10am

    Matter of scale

    If Comcast doesn't like the idea of towns and cities getting into the broadband business, there remains an ingenious solution to the "problem": provide better, cheaper, and faster service.

    Taking more money and/or reducing value for millions while giving to dozens is much more likely to leave you with lined pockets than the other way round.

    The Supreme Court has ruled bribery to be a First Amendment activity, so of course it is the most effective as well as legal way to secure profits.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Nov 2017 @ 8:15am

    Is there a list of these 21 states?

    My Google chi is off today. I clicked on the links to the vice articles without finding them.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 9 Nov 2017 @ 11:23am

    With all the bad news showing up these days it's nice to have an article like this to enjoy and brighten the day.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Nov 2017 @ 1:05pm

    I thought this vote was to allow for local discussion of the possibility ........ not to actually build it out like some of these comments are insinuating.

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

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 9 Nov 2017 @ 3:48pm

    Being a Canadian I just don't understand why they are allowed to show blatant lies as facts when they run ads.

    You can suggest it but to outright say something you know is a lie as fact is illegal here.

    Does the US have any standards left when it comes to truth in advertising?

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 9 Nov 2017 @ 4:09pm

      Re:

      As a US citizen who watches some TV (less all the time - I'm about ready to cut the cord myself), I can state with all assuredness, HELL NO! Truth in advertising is long dead and buried.

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


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