As I have written about in the past, cities around the country are so fed up with their current broadband situation that they are left to either begging Google Fiber to come to their city or starting the process of building their own municipal broadband network.
Rather than increasing speeds or lowering prices, incumbent broadband providers have instead turned towards trying to outlaw municipal broadband networks through increased political contributions. In some cases, lobbyists for the broadband providers actually have written the language found in proposed anti-municipal broadband laws. No, really.
But in Maine, we have a state with maybe the worst broadband situation in the country. According to some rankings, Maine is dead last or near dead last in terms of broadband speeds. Several cities in Maine responded to their lack of current broadband competition by formulating plans to start their own municipal broadband network.
How did Time Warner Cable respond to this plan? As the Portland Press Herald notes, Time Warner Cable hosted Maine lawmakers at a resort by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. At this meeting, Time Warner Cable “tried to convince legislators that government owned-broadband is a bad idea.”
Just as the legislative session was starting in January, Time Warner invited Maine lawmakers to an overnight “Winter Policy Conference” at a resort in Cape Elizabeth, where the company tried to convince legislators that government owned-broadband is a bad idea. The guests were served steak dinners and some were put up for the night in rooms that retail for $205 to $355 per night. – Portland Press Herald
Essentially, they are trying to influence lawmakers behind closed doors. What makes this even more unbelievable is that some of the lawmakers tried to pass off this trip as an “educational forum” about Maine’s broadband situation. It was educational enough for Time Warner Cable to also pay for any lawmakers “partners or spouses.”
But what exactly were they told?
Attendees were given a presentation by two New York legal scholars who asserted that, contrary to what the legislators might think, government-operated networks are neither necessary nor a good public investment. They were also given a presentation by pollster Mary Anne Fitzgerald on a Time Warner-commissioned survey. State Rep. Sarah Gideon, D- Freeport, who attended only Friday’s session, was skeptical of the survey’s section on broadband because some the questions were “leading.” – Portland Press Herald
This isn’t the first time that Time Warner Cable bribed hosted Maine lawmakers to starve off municipal broadband plans. In 2013, Time Warner Cable hosted a similar event. Additionally, since 2008, Time Warner has donated more than $240,000 to Maine politicians.
In Kansas, Time Warner Cable (along with Cox Communications and others) put forward a proposal to impose the strictest municipal broadband bans in the country if a city/area was already served. The bill was even nice enough to make sure that anyone with the slightest cellular connection was deemed “served.”
But at the end of the day, do customers really want faster broadband speeds? Shouldn’t we listen to Time Warner Cable who has publicly told cities like Louisville, KY, that the resident didn’t “need” faster speeds even though the city was begging other telecom companies to come to their area? Time Warner Cable has even reminded us that nobody really wants Google Fiber.