On 8th November 2017, voters in Fort Collins, Colorado, approved a ballot question. This authorizes the city to build a broadband network, thus rejecting a cable as well as telecom industry campaign against the initiative!
In fact, the voters in Fort Collins says “YES” to a ballot question yesterday. But what this ballot question is about? This ballot question gives the city council permission. The city council can now establish a telecommunications utility to provide broadband services. About 57.15 percent of the votes are in favor of this question!
A question arises here. What is the meaning of “YES” to the vote?
In fact, the vote does not require the city to build such a large broadband network. Instead, the vote gives the city council a permission that it needs to move forward on the plan if it chooses to do so.
At this, there started a “misinformation” campaign. Industry groups are now trying to convince people. They are convincing people to reject the municipal broadband network. The city’s mayor called it a “misinformation” campaign by the broadband incumbents. Mayor Wade Troxell recently says that “Today I am very encouraged with such a passage. I am also encouraged particularly with the headwinds of incumbents trying to misinform the electorate”.
On the other side, the anti-municipal broadband group is called “Priorities First Fort Collins“. The group spent $451,000 campaigning against the broadband network ballot question. This group received about all of its funding from the Colorado Cable Telecommunications Association and a group run by the city’s chamber of commerce. Moreover, the pro-municipal broadband group in Fort Collins is the “Fort Collins Citizens Broadband Committee”. This committee also spent less than $10,000 in the campaign.
Recently, Glen Akins, who helped lead the Citizens Broadband Committee, told Ars that:
“We successfully overcame the opponents’ huge and record-setting negative advertising campaign. This is because we had a group of dedicated as well as passionate volunteers who really believed in our mission. The fact is these are our volunteers’ passion that inspired our community. Our community once again affirmed their desire for better broadband. No doubt, big money can buy ad spots as well as air time. But keep in mind it cannot buy votes in Fort Collins. In fact, the affordable as well as symmetric gigabit broadband will definitely make Fort Collins the most incredible place to live.”
In spite of all this, the anti-municipal broadband campaign had also funded ads warning. They said that a publicly funded network in Fort Collins would take money away from other infrastructure initiatives. According to the campaign, the network will be soon funded by bonds. Moreover, the supporters say it will be self-sustainable because of subscriber fees. In fact, the Coloradoan editorial board want the voters to approve the ballot question. The board said that the city council should back out of the project if it turns out to be too costly. Then, such editorial board later accused the anti-municipal broadband campaign. It is because the anti-municipal broadband campaign took its editorial out of context in a campaign mailer. Mayor Wade Troxell was disappointed that even the Chamber of Commerce played an active role in misinformation.
More news about this is Colorado has a state law that requires municipalities to hold referendums. This is before they can provide cable, telecom, or broadband service. Recently, the voters of Eagle County as well as Boulder County authorized their local governments to build such broadband networks. Moreover, the other 16 municipalities also voted to opt out of that Colorado law recently.
In 2015, Fort Collins already took such a bold step with a ballot question. He took step that passed with 83 percent of the vote.
Moreover, the yesterday’s vote took some more steps of amending the Fort Collins city charter. It also authorizes the city to issue securities and other debt to fund a network.