Monopolies and wild animals are similar in that when you corner them, they will attack. While a bear will eat you, the big telecom monopolies that exist in many states will attack with money spent trying to block anything that might mean more competition for their services. In many areas of Colorado, Comcast is the only option for broadband internet and the company has famously bad customer service and strict data caps on usage. The problem is that there is little or no choice in many areas of the state, and many other states face the same issues.
Fort Collins, Colorado, a city of about 150,000 people north of Denver, has a ballot open that would begin talks about the potential for a municipal broadband network. As with any ballot there are those for and against the network; Comcast and Big Telecom obviously are falling in the "against" camp. To help block Fort Collins from even talking about a municipal broadband network, $200,000 has been contributed to the campaign to oppose the ballot measure in the city directly from Big Telecom.
"It's been wild," said Glen Akins, a Fort Collins advocate for municipal broadband. "We're overwhelmed by the amount of money the opposition is spending."
Fort Collins residents are set to vote on November 7. If the measure for municipal broadband is approved, Fort Collins will be able to change the existing city charter to allow it to run a municipal broadband utility. Essentially, if the measure was approved, it doesn't mean Fort Collins would get a municipal broadband service, it simply opens the doors to talking about it further. Big Telecom wants to block low-level talks of municipal broadband badly enough that it contributed the big bucks to silence opposition.
The reason this ballot measure is even needed to open talks on municipal broadband in Fort Collins is because Colorado is one of 23 states that have laws restricting the development of municipally-owned broadband. To open the door for further talks on the subject, each community can bypass that law with a ballot measure. So far 26 communities in Colorado have successfully voted for the measure and bypassed that particular law. Each time this ballot measure has come up in a community, it has passed.
So far Comcast and Big Telecom are spending their $200,000 warchest on TV and radio ads locally, along with Google search ads and flyers. CenturyLink is also a member of a local nonprofit called Citizens for a Sustainable Economy that has contributed $85,000 to stop the municipal broadband talks. In many parts of Colorado, CenturyLink is the only option for broadband other than Comcast. Many cities and states around the country are launching municipal broadband networks to help break Big Telecom monopolies, San Francisco and Seattle are both planning city-wide fiber networks to give citizens more options for broadband.