This City in Colorado is Fighting Back Against ISPs by Building Their Own Network

In an effort to create a more self-reliant community, cities across the U.S. are looking into building their own internet channels so they don't have to rely on predatory broadband providers.
Shelby Rogers

It's a struggle that has been months in the making, but the city council of Fort Collins, Colorado will go forward with plans to lay out its own broadband internet to the city. The city council finally enacted a ballot months after being approved by voters in November.

“The network will deliver a ‘net-neutral’ competitive unfettered data offering that does not impose caps or usage limits on one use of data over another (i.e., does not limit streaming or charge rates based on type of use),” according to the most recent planning document. “All application providers (data, voice, video, cloud services) are equally able to provide their services, and consumers’ access to advanced data opens up the marketplace.”

The discussion had been in the works since 2010 when the city wanted to team up with Colorado State University in order to apply to the Google Fiber challenge. However, Google didn't pick the city for its program and yet Fort Collins continued to pursue other options. 

"The city hopes to offer 1 gigabit-per-second speed for uploads and downloads," the Coloradoan reported in November. Projected pricing for residential customers is $70 per month for 1gbps and $50 for 50 mbps."

However, the measure didn't pass without a fight from some of broadband's biggest names -- namely Comcast. Measure 2B would make it legal for the city to discuss broadband, but apparently, that discussion was enough for the Comcast-led "Colorado Telecommunications Association" to fund a separate company to make an advertisement against Measure 2B. In the video below, 'residents' of the Fort Collins area talk about how they'd rather have anything else other than fast, reliable, efficient, and low-cost internet. 

The advertisement, in addition to other lobbying and campaigns done by big names in the internet business, actually swayed voters considerably. Over 40 percent of the Fort Collins area voted against having the broadband plan. This was despite the city council itself voting in a unanimous 7-0 decision to enact the policy. 


National frustrations with broadband providers

Fort Collins is far from the only municipality in the United States looking to take back control of the internet post the FCC's decision. There are 19 cities that voted in favor of a city-owned internet. 

“These cities and counties recognize that they cannot count on Comcast and CenturyLink alone to meet local needs, which is why you see overwhelming support even in an off-year election,” Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said. Mitchell's statement comes from shortly after the city of Fort Collins was in the midst of debating the project moving forward last November. 

In addition to these 19 cities, there are over 500 communities throughout the U.S. wanting to offer some form of local broadband. And most of those communities have also involved discussions about protecting net neutrality on a regional basis. However, the ultimate hope is that Fort Collins would serve as a guide through the logistics and frustrations so that other projects around the U.S. could succeed. 

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