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.

Filed Under: colorado, competition, municipal broadband, states rights
Companies: comcast

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  1. 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.

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