Tag Archive for profits

$297,000 On A Local Election? Isn’t That A Little Crazy?

Comcast obstructing

Small group, big money

Look Before We Leap – a front group for the Colorado Cable Telecommunications Association – continues to block Longmont’s efforts to partner with private industry.

In a new twist on the saga of Ballot Question 2A, which would re-establish Longmont’s right to partner with private industry to use its fiber-optic ring, Comcast-sponsored group ‘Look Before We Leap’ has now spent over $297,000 (LBWL Report pdf) on robo-calls, door-knockers, and most recently a full-page ad in the local Daily Times-Call to mock the city’s efforts to partner with private employers.

The city of Longmont, which attempted to win the valuable gigabit network from Google last year, is prevented by state law from using its fiber-optic network without a voter referendum. That is what is on the ballot this November 1st – with Comcast’s monopoly over telecommunications at risk.

In recent public comments by Google VP of Access Services Milo Medin, he specifically identified political hurdles such as these as a cause for automatically removing cities from consideration. As Google reviews additional cities to partner with, Longmont will continue to be disqualified if Question 2A does not pass.

Question 2A specifically supports the City working “either directly or indirectly with public or private sector partners.”

“Look Before We Leap have tried to pretend that this is a grassroots effort,” said Jonathan Rice, editor of the pro-2A website www.longmontsfuture.com

“But the truth is that not one single donation over $50 has been declared by the front group… other than those of the Colorado Cable Telecommunications Association.”

The organization has spent more than ten times what the rest of Longmont’s elections put together will spend, and flies in the face of elected public officials’ opinion.

“Every single candidate for office and every incumbent, in every race, supports this measure,” continued Rice. “But Comcast and its friends are more interested in profit than progress, and continue to run a smear campaign to spread misinformation and outright lies – they recently posted Mayor Baum’s name as an opponent of 2A when he is actually a vociferous supporter.”

With Longmont reeling from the loss of hundreds of local jobs over the last few months, it could badly use a shot in the arm from a major employer – but without 2A passing, that won’t be Google.

“We tried our darnedest to get them to come here,” said Rice. “But without access to the fiber optic ring, they just couldn’t quite bring themselves to be part of Longmont’s future.”

Question 2A is a battle between the rights of citizens and local businesses versus the desire of out-of-town corporate interests to maximize profits at their expense.

For more information contact Jonathan Rice at www.longmontsfuture.com

Comcast vs. Community: The Future of Broadband Competition

This is a repost of an article on HuffingtonPost.com.

Longmont, Colorado has become ground zero for the battle over the future of access to the Internet. Because big cable and telephone companies have stopped us from having a real choice in Internet Service Providers and failed to invest in adequate networks, a number of communities have built their own networks.

Chattanooga boasts the nation’s best citywide broadband network, offering the fastest speeds available in the nation — and the community owns it. That means much more of the money spent by subscribers stays in town, supporting local jobs.

Longmont, a town near Boulder with 80,000 people, offers a glimpse at how difficult it can be for communities to make any level of broadband investment — the big cable and phone companies hate any potential competition, no matter how limited.

Longmont’s elected officials all agree they need better broadband options to spur economic development. That’s why they put a referendum on the ballot that will allow the city to use its existing assets to improve local broadband access. Not only are the mayor and city council unanimous in support of the referendum (2A) necessary for this, their opponents in the city election overwhelmingly agree also! And the local paper just editorialized in favor of it as well.

Who then, is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to derail it? Comcast and its allies, of course. And this isn’t the first time.

Back in the 1990s, the municipality-owned electric utility built a fiber ring to modernize its electrical grid. They took the opportunity to lay more fiber-optic cables than they would need, knowing that they could later be used by the city or partners to expand broadband access for all businesses and resident.

Over several years, the City worked with a variety of partners to spur broadband deployment locally but a new state law in 2005 gutted their ability to work with private partners to expand broadband. Qwest had just pushed what become known as the “Qwest law” through the Colorado legislature. Starting in 2004, telephone and cable companies used their clout in legislatures across the nation to prevent communities from investing in broadband infrastructure. Now Longmont would have to pass a referendum to allow local businesses and resident to use a network the town built years earlier.

In 2009, Longmont attempted to pass the referendum but Comcast and allies dumped over $245,000 into a “Vote No” campaign that spread fear and misinformation far and wide, resulting in 56% of the voters saying no. They set a record in local campaign spending, dwarfing previous amounts from all sides in any Longmont election.

But after the election, when many learned they had been fooled by anti-competition propaganda, they wanted to revisit the issue. On November 1, they have their chance. But again, Comcast and allies are pouring millions into a campaign of misinformation. Their group has already been busted for erroneously claiming the mayor is against the initiative when he has been unequivocally in favor of it. With two weeks to go before election day, they have already surpassed their previous records by spending $275,000 while the pro-2A groups have yet to expend even $5,000. The true grassroots groups are making do with a website and volunteers countering Comcast’s misinformation.

Institute for Local Self Reliance

The question is whether big companies like Comcast can again fool more then 50% of the voters with their glossy mailers and robo-calls. This is the real problem — the debates have shown that the opposition to this measure comes almost entirely from outside the community. But Comcast’s ability to flood the papers, airwaves, phones, and mailboxes with market-tested anti-government messages is unrivaled. The big cable and phone companies use the same tactics across the U.S., protecting their high prices and poor services from the only real threat of competition they face — local community investment.

The most recent mailer threatens that a broadband project would raise taxes, an outright lie given that the referendum text starts, “Without increasing taxes, shall the citizens of the City of Longmont…” But the anti-2A groups care about preserving Comcast’s market power, not being truthful.

Longmont could join the growing movement of communities that invest in their own broadband networks to ensure fast, affordable, and reliable connections creating local jobs and offering local benefits.

While big citywide networks like Chattanooga’s Gig Network have captured plenty of attention, hundreds of communities have made smaller investments — like the ring Longmont build 14 years ago. Often without even borrowing money, local governments are expanding fiber-optic rings and connections to encourage economic development, create jobs, and lower the cost of providing city services.

This could be the future of access to the Internet — local initiatives benefiting local stakeholders, putting the needs of the community before the desires of distant shareholders. Longmont makes its decision on November 1. When will your community make yours?

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