Municipal broadband advocates say Comcast lawsuit proves need for public internet service
Advocates of a municipal broadband network in Seattle say the new $100 million consumer protection lawsuit against Comcast further proves that Internet should be treated like a public utility akin to electricity. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Monday announced1 the lawsuit against Comcast, which alleges that the cable giant engaged in deceptive practices related to a service protection plan that cost customers more than $73 million in subscription fees since January 2011.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant.
The bottom line is, I refuse to allow Comcast to put profits before people, Ferguson said at a media conference on Monday. After the media briefing, Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant tweeted2 that the lawsuit shows further evidence we need #MunicipalBroadband.
Sawant, a former software engineer who was elected to the Seattle City Council as a socialist candidate in January 2014, has been a long-time advocate for a municipal broadband network in the Emerald City.
The purpose of a public internet utility is to provide high-speed, affordable and equitable internet coverage to all Seattle neighborhoods, residents, and businesses, she wrote3 last year. Municipal broadband can be a powerful lever against the digital divide that condemns people to the isolation and reduced economic opportunities experienced by many of our low-income, disabled, and people of color community members. She added: We should expect Comcast and CenturyLink to go to every length to keep their unchallenged duopoly in Seattle. Devin Glaser, policy and political director of a grassroots group campaigning for a city-owned broadband network called Upgrade Seattle4, told GeekWire that Comcast s Service Protection Plan was nothing more than $5 a month of 21st Century snake oil, and the Attorney General s lawsuit is the kind of work we d like to see from all of our elected officials.
More from Glaser:
At the end of the day Ferguson s move is a great offense but what subscribers really need is a good defense. Comcast tricked subscribers into paying $5 more a month through deceptive practices, but there s no real mechanism in place preventing Comcast from simply charging higher prices in the first place. The majority of Comcast s victims still have no alternative for reliable access to the internet, which is why Upgrade Seattle is still working to create a robust public option that doesn t rely on a for-profit motive. Seattle residents are tired of sending their money to Philadelphia when it could be used to invest in a local network here in our community.
City officials have considered a municipal network, but a 7-month study5 released last year showed that the project would cost $480 million to $665 million less than past projections, but still too much for the city to take on without outside financing or a major partnership, according to officials.
Then, this past November, the Seattle City Council voted against a $5 million municipal broadband pilot program6.