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Loveland, Col. Advances Municipal Broadband Without Public Vote to Avoid ‘Circus of Lies’

Phillip Dampier February 7, 2018 Broadband Speed, Community Networks, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't 5 Comments

Fort Collins residents saw their mailboxes filled with mailers last fall opposing community broadband, paid for by the state’s cable lobby.

The Loveland, Col. City Council approved Tuesday four measures that include a $2.5 million spending authorization to lay the groundwork to allow the city to develop a new public broadband network.

The city plans to move quickly, spending $300,000 to develop an in-depth business plan for the service, which the city may run itself. The money will also be spent on researching financing options and a general outreach campaign to explain the service to local residents. Another $2.2 million will cover the development of a detailed solicitation for proposals to build the fiber network an exploration of bonding options.

Some Council members were adamant they will not repeat the mistakes of other Colorado towns by taking muncipal broadband up for a public vote. Several Loveland City Council members commented on a campaign of demagoguery and distortion practiced by incumbent cable and phone companies in Fort Collins and Longmont, which financed expensive campaigns to try to block municipal broadband proposals from getting off the ground. Both industry-funded campaigns failed.

For one Council member, the extensive lobbying campaign in 2017 to smear Fort Collins’ proposal municipal network backfired.

Councilman John Fogle had previously supported requiring a public vote if Loveland decided to get into the broadband business. But then last November he witnessed Fort Collins endure a well-financed effort by the Colorado Cable Telecommunications Association and the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce to defeat a similar broadband proposal. He changed his mind.

“It’s not an even playing field when incumbent industries will spend $900,000 at the drop of the hat to perpetuate … a monopoly,” Fogle said, noting that local governments cannot spend taxpayer dollars to fight lobbyists and defend their proposals.

Ball: We don’t need a public vote.

Councilman Rich Ball went even further, declaring unless he died or resigned, he would never support a public vote.

“We have the wonderful opportunity to collaborate or we can be the little city that I grew up in that always got beat … by Fort Collins and Longmont,” Ball said.

Many local residents supporting the Loveland public fiber network applauded the decision of local council members not to be tricked into an unfair fight with the well-financed telecom industry.

“I don’t want the Council to spend even five minutes entertaining Comcast’s circus of lies and distortions. I hope those TV ads run last fall in Fort Collins from that fake group sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce taught our state a lesson on what cable monopolies will do to protect their monopoly,” said Loveland resident Susan Collins. “They’ll do whatever it takes and you can lose if you play their game. We already had a vote when we elected our City Council. If people don’t like what they are doing, they can vote them out again.”

But Mayor Pro Tem Don Overcash expressed concern and requested the four measures be amended to require voter approval, believing the Council may be exceeding its authority.

“If citizens want to expand our powers to meet their needs, they have the right to do that,” Overcash said.

A handful of residents also worried they would be paying for a network they won’t use, choosing to stay with their local cable or phone company provider instead.

Loveland, Col.

Councilman Jeremy Jersvig complained that his fellow Council members were making “dictatorial” motions to move forward on the fiber network that, in his view, did not consider public opinion.

But Council members who support Loveland’s public fiber proposal noted:

  • In a 2015 election, 82 percent of Loveland voters said “yes” to overriding a state law banning local governments from providing telecommunication services, such as high-speed internet. Other Colorado communities have gone through similar votes.
  • The vote allowed the city to explore making high-speed internet available throughout the Loveland area, independently or in partnership, and without raising taxes. City Council will make the final decision on whether to provide this service, and what model to use if so.
  • Ultra-fast internet service, with speeds greater than 1 gigabit per second, would be delivered through a citywide fiber-optic network, which is faster than what the local cable or phone company will provide.

Currently there are 5 comments on this Article:

  1. EJ says:

    While I loath the monopoly the cable industry have in to many towns what was done is not right. It is the right of the people to vote on a measure this large. If they are fooled by the cable company and want to continue with sub par capped and/or capped broadband it is on them at that point. I am aware many people are not as informed as I am because I work in the industry and coupled with my business degree I can see the bigger picture a little more clear then most. Still something this large should be voted on.

    I read these articles time and again and all I can think is why, why, why? If the cable company wants some funds to build out there plant then sure give it to them, but have real restrictions with real penalties. I would never advocate handing a check to a monopoly company without a rock solid contract. In all reality an existing cable company can improve a plant way cheaper then a new construction can. With that in mind go to the cable and company and say how much do you need? Once they give you a figure say okay, but it comes with requirements you have to fulfill.
    1. The plant be built out in x number of months/years.
    2. You expand to everyone within the town footprint.
    3. The amount you can charge is x amount of dollars and/or x that equals x amount of profit.
    4. Starting immediately data caps will be done away with and/or will exceed reasonable rates and be revisited yearly for adjustment.
    5. The company and the city will hire a project manager that will have power over all these requirements and will make sure the requirements are being followed.
    6. Up time will be 95% or greater except in times of unforeseen events (fiber cut or something of the like).
    7. The customer WILL receive what they are paying for and will do so 90% of the time. Reacquiring speed issues WILL be solved in a timely as soon as they are identified.
    and so on…

    Contracts are legally binding and HAVE to be followed. Clear and to the point contracts are very tough to fight so it is best of the cities do the writing and do well to remember they have all the power. The city can then go to the people and say we offered with reasonable demands and they declined so now we are going to vote on a citywide city ran broadband.

    Yes cities I am available to project manage and/or help you on what you want in a contract. I would be happy to hire out my services lol.

  2. EJ says:

    Phillip who is this special interest tagging this? Do you know anything about them? At least they have only tagged it once so far lol. Some of your other articles are tags multiple times with the same tag lol.

    • They are pingbacks. I should probably just turn these off because readers don’t really care. A lot of times, the sites grabbing these articles are “scraping” content to put online with ads and hope to get ad clicks. Other times, they are quoting us. It is supposed to promote dialogue among websites and blogs but that idea never really came to pass.

      • EJ says:

        If you are receiving revenue from it I say keep them on. They are only a minor nuisance. I just skip past them and always figured they were their for the Bots to find. I tinker with web design (AA in it) so I understand tagging a little bit. No reason to change on my account. Carry on with the good work sir.O I looked up that company it is just a consulting firm and/or person for municipalities.

        • We receive no revenue from these and I have made a change which should keep them from showing up in the future. All of our funding comes from individual Paypal donations. We don’t accept funding from industry participants or other aligned interests.

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