NOTE: I am publishing this here–on my old writing website–because the Greeley Tribune cut out about a third of the column when they published it on 16 January 2018. See the published version here. I have bolded the part they cut.
Greeley is in a unique position to protect its citizens from a rouge administration. Despite the fact that a vast majority of republicans, democrats, and independents support net neutrality rules, the FCC has rolled back the regulations meant to protect the freedom to information in this country. This means that companies like Comcast and CenturyLink—companies that already hold ethically appalling monopolies—are now able to throttle your internet speeds when you visit websites they do not approve of. Just think—if NPR runs a factual story about Comcast illegally charging thousands of customers for services without their consent (a true story), there is now nothing stopping Comcast from slowing internet speeds to a crawl every time someone tries to access NPR’s website.
The amount of power this gives to Internet Providers (ISPs) is immoral and dangerous. Already, ISPs have lobbied for partial or full bans on municipal broadband. We are lucky enough that our state legislature didn’t allow for a full ban to pass. But they did pass an absurd law that means cities have to opt out on the ban in order to establish a city-wide broadband—an anti-competition law that isn’t seen in any other industry. Apparently the ISPs are terrified of competition.
But we live in Greeley, Colorado. This past November, 61 percent of voters voted to opt out of the competition-killing law. Now, with the citizens behind the idea of municipal broadband, it’s time for the city to develop a plan that delivers. As the plan is developed, there are a few things our city council must keep in mind:
First, and foremost, net neutrality must be at the heart of any municipal broadband. As the big ISPs start to throttle specific websites that compete or offer tiered packages, Greeley must commit itself to Net Neutrality. One price for full internet access. Period. Anything less would be a violation of net neutrality and defeat the purpose of municipal internet.
Secondly, speed needs to be a priority. Comcast and the other ISPs have received billions of dollars to build the infrastructure for gigabit speeds. Instead of building up that necessary infrastructure, they have pocketed the taxpayer money and keep speeds slow. Is it any surprise why they try to kill the idea of municipal broadband wherever it crops up? Longmont municipal broadband, NextLight, offers gigabit speeds. Meanwhile my Comcast “High-speed” internet struggles to break 10 megabits per second. That is 1/100 the speed. If Greeley can commit to the infrastructure to offer gigabit speeds, other ISPs will struggle to survive in our city—and good riddance.
Thirdly, customer service is key. I once had the misfortune of signing up for CenturyLink Internet. When the speeds I got ended up being one-third of what I was paying for, I called to get an answer. And call I did. Call. And call. And call. I even had a scheduled service appointment—only to have him show up and say there was nothing he could do. After having several phone representatives then hang up on me, I ended up reporting CenturyLink to the Better Business Bureau. And that was the only way I ever got my money back. Our city council must put customer service front and center.
I will make the commitment today that if our city council delivers on these three principles—net neutrality, gigabit speeds, and true customer service, I will sign up. Though we do not yet know what Greeley Broadband will cost, I will gladly pay well in excess of my current crappy service for local, fast, and ethical internet service.