from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept
For decades regional U.S. telecom monopolies have often refused to deploy broadband into low ROI areas, despite billions in subsidization. At the same time, they’ve fought tooth and nail against towns and cities that attempt to improve their own regional broadband infrastructure. Often by using a bunch of sleazy and disingenuous arguments, or, in some cases, literally buying and writing state laws that block locals from deciding what they can and can’t do with their own local infrastructure. The only real goal: protect giant regional monopolies from disruption and competition.
In Maine, Charter (which sells broadband and TV under the Spectrum brand) has been waging a not so subtle war against the town of Leeds, which is contemplating a community broadband network. Charter took the time to help create a phony grass roots group dubbed Maine Civil Action, which bombarded locals with pamphlets telling them such a project would be an inevitable taxpayer boondoggle resulting in worse service (that’s false, if you were unaware, not only do plenty of community broadband operations operate in the green, data suggests they routinely provide significantly cheaper, better broadband):
“McLean says town officials suspected that the pamphlets were linked to the broadband provider Spectrum, owned by Charter Communications, which has 31 million customers in 41 states, with revenues of nearly $50 billion last year. “There’s little precedent for this on any other town issue. Very small town. And so to have the expense of a color, double-sided pamphlet being hand-delivered to people’s homes was surprising for a lot of people,” McLean said.”
Creating bogus grass roots opposition to improving local infrastructure has long been a favored pastime of regional telecom monopolies. They hide their identity when running such marketing and disinformation campaigns, because if they pushed the pamphlets as themselves, nobody would (quite justly) believe that they have the best interests of the community at heart. Such local town initiatives are often being run on a shoestring budget, so a company with $50 billion in annual revenues can have a meaningful impact on the discourse.
In Maine, as is usually the case, when some local reporter presses the telecom giant about their involvement, they often lie:
“McLean said he confronted Spectrum’s government affairs liaison Melinda Kinney about the pamphlets and that she denied that the company had any involvement. Maine Public attempted to contact Kinney, but instead received a statement from Charter’s regional spokeswoman Lara Pritchard acknowledging that the company had provided funding to the Maine Policy Institute, the Portland-based conservative advocacy group that created Maine Civic Action.”
As we’ve long illustrated, there are two reasons U.S. broadband is expensive, spotty, and slow: regional monopolies and the state and federal corruption that protects them. As we’ve also noted, community broadband is an organic response to decades of obvious market failure. If ISPs truly wanted to thwart community broadband, they could offer better, faster, more widely available service. Instead, they resort to dodgy games and scare mongering through bogus proxy organizations, all in a bid to protect the broken status quo. And, thanks to their massive budgets, it often works.