$900K spent on failed fight against Fort Collins broadband
Voters are being asked whether the city may provide high-speed internet services Wochit
Colin Garfield, right, leads a cheers to passage of a ballot question allowing Fort Collins to establish municipal broadband service in this Nov.
7 file photo taken at The Mayor of Old Town.(Photo: Austin Humphreys/The Coloradoan)Buy Photo
What does £900,000 buy in a Fort Collins municipal election? This past November, it was the price of a resounding loss.
The Colorado Cable Telecommunications Association alone spent £816,000 in a failed effort to defeat a measure on the November ballot that cleared the path for the city to establish its own broadband network. That spending included a final-week splurge of more than £500,000.
The remaining £85,000 raised from anti-broadband group Priorities First Fort Collins came from the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce-affiliated group Citizens for a Sustainable Economy.
For comparison, the pro-municipal broadband group, Fort Collins Citizen Broadband Committee, raised and spent just more than £15,000 in the course of the election.
The measure, which gave the city voter approval to establish a telecommunications utility supported by up to £150 million in bond funding, passed with 57 percent of the vote. All told, as pro-broadband committee member Colin Garfield points out, the anti-city broadband group spent about £55 per each vote against the measure.
“It just made me even more proud of Fort Collins voters,” Garfield said. “They weren’t persuaded by misinformation and scare tactics. They said no to record spending in Fort Collins (elections).”
The city of Fort Collins started moving forward on municipal broadband efforts shortly after the Nov.
7 election. It authorized staff to start looking for people to head up the new utility that month, including spending £1.8 million in general fund dollars, which it plans to repay via bonds. In turn, the bonds would be repaid by customers who sign up to receive service once the city-run broadband network is established.
City officials have looked to Longmont for guidance on a successful rollout of city-run broadband. Longmont’s NextLight service is one of the highest-rated internet providers in the nation.
Longmont projected it needed about 37 percent of residences and businesses to switch from existing providers for its utility to be financially successful; instead, its take rates have exceeded 50 percent.
Fort Collins hopes to offer 1 gigabit-per-second speed for uploads and downloads. Initial pricing projections have the city looking at £70 per month for 1 gpbs speeds and £50 for 50 mbps, though City Council members have asked to see options that would subsidize service for low-income residents. Fort Collins projects it needs a 28 percent take rate for the utility to succeed.
Garfield said knowing the final spending against city-run broadband — and voters’ rejection of those arguments — only adds to already high expectations.
He added he’s confident the city is doing its due diligence to fulfill them.
Jeff Weist, executive director of the Colorado Cable Telecommunications Association, said his organization wanted to have a “community discussion” regarding the debt Fort Collins may take on to establish municipal broadband service.
“We hope that we’ll be able to continue discussions and work with the City to encourage more private investment in broadband rather than risk public funds to duplicate costly networks already provided by the private sector,” he wrote in an email.
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- ^ passed with 57 percent of the vote (www.coloradoan.com)
- ^ It authorized staff to start looking for people to head up the new utility that month (www.coloradoan.com)
- ^ City officials have looked to Longmont for guidance (www.coloradoan.com)
- ^ Disdain for Comcast, CenturyLink drove Fort Collins broadband support (www.coloradoan.com)
- ^ That partnership search turned up empty (www.coloradoan.com)
- ^ three to five years (www.fcgov.com)