Motherboard Investigates Corporate Influences in Fort Collins Local Election to Invest in Municipal Broadband

Date: 25 Oct 2017 | posted in: Media Coverage, MuniNetworks | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

In the News: Christopher Mitchell

October 25, 2017

Media Outlet: Motherboard Vice

For years, indeed since Colorado enacted SB 152 as part of a Comcast-funded effort to limit municipal broadband investment, we’ve seen Big Telecom’s interest in local elections grow. This year’s Fort Collins ballot question has been subject to hundreds of thousands in spending from the Comcast-backed Colorado Cable and Telecommunications Association, as Motherboard’s Kaleigh Rogers reports.

In her reporting, she reached out to Christopher Mitchell, ILSR’s director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative.

Here’s Christopher’s contribution:

The CCTA forked over $125,000 to Priorities First Fort Collins, the anti-municipal broadband campaign, according to filings published Wednesday. But there’s also been a $85,000 contribution from Citizens for a Sustainable Economy, a local nonprofit run by the city’s Chamber of Commerce, which include local provider CenturyLink as a member.

“There are two explanations: one is that all of the cable companies in the state feel very strongly about drawing a line in the sand now, after 100 communities have already made this decision,” Christopher Mitchell, Community Broadband Networks initiative director at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said over the phone. “Or Comcast is the one pushing it, and we’ve seen that in countless states before.”

Oliver told me Comcast had not made any public statements about the ballot measure. Motherboard reached out to Centurylink but did not receive an immediate response.

Ad for the NO campaign at the top of Google search results. Image: Screengrab/Google

The “no” campaign’s main argument is that the city shouldn’t waste money on projects like a municipal broadband network where there are other, more important, issues at hand. But the ads don’t seem to acknowledge that if Fort Collins did decide to go forward with city-run internet—at an estimated cost of $150 million—it would be funded through utility bonds, which wouldn’t be available to use on other issues, like road repairs.

“The broadband budget is going to be funded 100 percent through subscriber fees,” Atkins noted. “If you don’t build the network, it doesn’t magically create $150 million to spend on something else.”

And, again, the ballot measure is just to open the door to possibility; Why put so much effort and money into a campaign against starting a conversation?

Read the full story here.

Nick Stumo-Langer
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Nick Stumo-Langer

Nick Stumo-Langer was Communications Manager at ILSR working for all five initiatives. He ran ILSR's Facebook and Twitter profiles and builds relationships with reporters. He is an alumnus of St. Olaf College and animated by the concerns of monopoly power across our economy.