The Dirty Tricks SBC and Comcast Play to Sink Municipal Broadband

This is a long article but one that is well worth reading -- if you have ever wondered what sort of dirty tricks companies like SBC and Comcast are willing to play to sink municipal broadband, this is a real eye-opener.

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Tri-Cities Trials:

A municipal fiber plan in Illinois' Tri-Cities failed twice. The region's leaders and residents offer cautionary tales as Lafayette heads toward its July 16 fiber-to-the-home referendum. By Kristi H. Dempsey, R. Reese Fuller, Scott Jordan and Nathan Stubbs | 5/25/2005

After first being introduced to the public more than a year ago, Lafayette Utilities System's fiber-to-the-home initiative is headed for a public referendum on July 16 for bond approval. Its the home stretch for the contentious battle between Lafayette Consolidated Government and incumbent telecom providers BellSouth and Cox Communications, and no one knows what unexpected twists the next seven weeks will bring. Only the dueling storylines are set in stone: LCG wants to build its fiber network for economic development, while BellSouth and Cox say government should not compete with private business.

For the Tri-Cities' area of Illinois, Lafayette's baptism-by-fire education on fiber is old hat. Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles, Ill. are located 45 miles outside of Chicago and have a combined population of approximately 80,000 people; Tri-Cities government has been trying to offer its own fiber program since 2003.

Telecom providers Comcast and SBC have vehemently opposed the Tri-Cities' plan; the two companies mounted fierce opposition campaigns that doomed cities' fiber network twice at the polls. A Comcast representative declined to answer questions about Tri-Cities from The Independent Weekly, issuing only a one-sentence statement: "By voting down the idea of launching municipal broadband twice in

19 months, residents sent a clear message that they do not support a municipally owned broadband utility." SBC spokesman Marty Richter echoed that sentiment, saying, "[Voters] looked at both sides of the issue, and didn't favor the cities plunging into this very risky business, especially when they're already very well served by the private sector, such as SBC."

Tri-Cities officials and residents paint a different picture. And the image that emerges is David being crushed by Goliath or in this case, a pair of Goliaths determined to maintain their market dominance with a variety of tactics.

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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: You may wish to read this report; it sort of explains what happened in a couple of small towns in Kansas thought about starting such ventures; SBC even is quite opposed to the concept of municipal WiFi. PAT]

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Jack Decker
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