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November 9, 2017

Colorado city OKs broadband plan despite opposition from internet providers

by John_A

Voters in Fort Collins, Colorado have approved a proposal for a citywide municipal broadband service. When unofficial returns came in during the early hours of this morning, the measure was seen to pass with a 57.15 percent share of the vote.

Fort Collins is proposing the construction of a fiber optic network that will provide the entire city and the area it’s likely to expand into over the coming years with gigabit-per-second upload and download speeds. Pricing estimates for residential customers stand at $70 per month for 1gbps, and $50 per month for 50mbps.

The proposal offers some flexibility in terms of how Fort Collins might go about establishing the network. The council will be able to set up its own dedicated utility company, but there’s also scope for a partnership with an existing organization. Later this month, a session will be held to establish the next steps that need to be taken.

Not everyone is enthused about the idea of the city council fostering municipal broadband. A group known as Priorities First Fort Collins spent $451,564 on its campaign to oppose the idea – by contrast the Fort Collins Broadband Committee only reported spending $9,250 on its campaign to support the proposal.

““I was very encouraged with the passage today, and particularly with the headwinds of incumbents trying to misinform the electorate,” commented Mayor Wade Troxell, according to a report from The Coloradoan. “And also, I was very disappointed in the [Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce] playing an active role in misinformation.”

It should come as no surprise that internet service providers played a key role in what Troxell characterized as a “misinformation” campaign. CenturyLink is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and Comcast contributed funds to the campaign run by Priorities First, according to a report from Ars Technica.

On the face of it, making broadband available to all residents seems like a no-brainer, but it’s the idea of pitting the government against private providers that some can’t agree with. There are concerns that putting these powers in the hands of the council will make it more difficult for commercial companies to compete, which could ultimately result in higher prices.

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