Municipal broadband in Fort Collins, Colorado went live Friday offering gigabit internet connections for the same price as comparatively sluggish Comcast, over Comcast’s strong objections.
Xfinity offers in Fort Collins offer 250 megabit connections for $60 a month, while for the same price, Fort Collins Connexion offers one gigabit download and upload speeds (upload speeds are typically a fraction of download speeds). Moreover, the municipal broadband is unlikely to engage in the kinds of preferential access that major telecom companies are free to pursue following the death of net neutrality early in the Trump administration.
A combination of terrible customer service, slow speeds, and rates far higher than other comparable countries that give internet service providers astronomical profits have made internet service providers (ISPs) America’s most hated industry. The Motley Fool suggested that the only reason ISPs haven’t seen a mass exodus is there’s really nowhere else to go.
Taken together with the overwhelming popularity of an open internet guaranteed by net neutrality, and it’s little wonder that government-sponsored internet is being considered. Grit Post covered a Michigan gubernatorial candidate’s proposal for a state-sponsored broadband utility in the Mitten last year.
And Fort Collins Connexion is clearly aware of its place in contrast to the private sector’s loathed service.
“Finally, a broadband provider you can trust,” touts the city’s website.
Connexion didn’t just happen, though. It was a hard-fought foray into the realm of government broadband utilities that Comcast pushed hard against. The Colorado Cable Telecommunications Association — of which Comcast is a member — donated a whopping $815,000 toward a campaign to oppose the ballot measure authorizing the creation of Connexion. The Chamber of Commerce opposed the initiative as well.
All told, nearly a million dollars was spent to oppose Connexion’s creation compared to only $15,000 to support the proposal. But in a fiscal David and Goliath story, Fort Collins passed the initiative. And now, Connexion is slowly rolling out across the city, promising to uphold net neutrality principles, safeguard residents’ personal data and provide top-quality services at competitive prices.
“All in all, it’s remarkably neat to see this all come to fruition after our four-year journey with all of its ups and downs,” said Colin Garfield of the Fort Collins Citizens Broadband Committee. “It’s my hope that other communities across the country will be inspired by the muni fiber [municipal broadband] hotbed that is now northern Colorado (Fort Collins, Loveland, Estes Park, Longmont). I’m excited to use my newfound gig speed to cancel Comcast.”
And if Connexion can deliver on its promise, it absolutely would be a solid roadmap for other cities or states to follow to provide data privacy and open internet protections to citizens while freeing them from the most loathed industry in America, all while providing a better online experience.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.