The people have spoken and they’re saying “yes” to better internet options.
Voters in Fort Collins, Colorado, stuck it to private internet service provider (ISP) giants including Comcast and CenturyLink this week, auhorizing the city government to offer its own broadband network.
Fort Collins, a college town near Denver with a population of around 160,000, proposes to cover the entire city with a fiber-optic network capable of gigabit speeds. Pricing estimates for residential customers are $70 for a gigabit and $50 for 50mbps, according to the Coloradoan.
The unofficial vote as of Wednesday stands at 57.15 percent in favor of the ballot. The overwhelming victory for the city comes after weeks of what Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell called “misinformation campaigns” from the telecom industry.
The opposition to municipal broadband, “Priorities First Fort Collins,” spent $451,000 campaigning against the ballot measure. Most of that money came from the pocket of Colorado Cable Telecommunications Association and a group in the Fort Collins Area of Commerce. As Ars Technica points out, Comcast is a member of both groups while CenturyLink is part of the commerce.
“I was very encouraged with the passage today, and particularly with the headwinds of incumbents trying to misinform the electorate,” Troxell told the Coloradoan. “And also, I was very disappointed in the (Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce) playing an active role in misinformation. I think there is some accountability that has to come out post-election.”
The Coloradoan said Priorities First Fort Collins took its published endorsement out of context in its campaign mailers, picking out a single line about a worst-case scenario for the municipal internet without explaining that all but one of the publication’s board members endorsed it.
The grassroots pro-municipal broadband group spent less than $10,000 on campaigning.
Campaigns from the Priorities First Fort Collins group claimed the city-run internet network would result in fewer funds available for other infrastructure. Supporters cited potential economic benefits of high-speed internet seen in cities like Kansas City with Google Fiber.
A business plan for the network states it will need a 28 percent subscription rate to be successful. Longmont, a town 30 miles south of Fort Collins, has a municipal internet adoption rate of 51 percent after three years. The city was ranked as having the fastest internet in the country by PCMag, ahead of Google Fiber-equipped Austin, Texas, and Kansas City.
H/T Ars Technica