The unreasonable fight for municipal broadband

The unreasonable fight for municipal broadband

Meet this astonishing item!!

I love Longmont’s municipal broadband, but we had to fight Comcast every step of the way to get it.

NextLight—Longmont’s Broadband

As a gracious person, I’ll dutifully pretend that the problem might be on my side of the Zoom call. But the problem is never me—my internet is just too good.

Since 2016, I’ve been using Longmont’s municipal broadband—NextLight—and it’s been objectively awesome.

It’s fast—1Gbps symmetric
It’s cheap(ish)—$49.95 per month
It’s rock-solid—I’ve never had an outage
I’ve never hit a data cap
PC Magazine ranks NextLight among the top five ISPs in the United States every year—often besting Google Fiber

And, even better, the city insists I’ll pay $49.95 forever.

But Longmont spent more than a decade fighting Comcast to provide this excellent internet. And any city working on its municipal broadband offering should prepare to do the same.

🎉 Canceling Comcast ¶
In 2016, I was paying Comcast $150 a month for their top-tier (at the time) 100Mbps speeds. I could usually eke out a little more than 30Mbps on a good day.

I lept at the chance for gigabit internet. I signed up for NextLight as a charter member—locking in $49.95/mo for life (the current price is only $69.95 last I checked). And I took the opportunity to upgrade my $20 router from 2008 at the same time.

My new fancy router—Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite + EdgeSwitch 16-POE

And when I returned my cable box to Comcast to cancel my service, the representative felt compelled to counsel me: “NextLight, huh? you know,” he said, leaning in, “if you miss even a single payment, they’ll raise your price?”

“I’ll take my chances.”

I’ve been automatically billed $49.95 every month since, and this is what my speed looks like this morning:

930Mbps is not quite 1Gbps, but I’ll take it

🥺 Why can’t we have nice things? ¶
Big cable companies suck. Big cable companies burned hundreds of thousands of dollars to stop Longmont’s municipal broadband.

In 2005, Comcast and CenturyLink rammed through the egregious Colorado SB-05-152, prohibiting municipalities in the state of Colorado from offering telecommunication services.

Longmont had to hold two referendums on the measure—one in 2009, which failed, and another in 2011, which passed:

In 2009, “No Blank Check Longmont” (Comcast/CenturyLink) spent $250,000 to dash our dreams of municipal broadband. They framed it as a choice between fast internet vs. police and firefighters.

In 2011, “Look Before You Leap Longmont” (Comcast/CenturyLink) spent $300,000 urging us to rethink our municipal broadband plans. They stood in lone opposition to our unanimous city council and our local paper.

Comcast spent $500,000 in a tiny city of less than 100,000 people. You can be sure, Comcast will do all this again in a heartbeat.

📓 Lessons ¶
Rather than use their vast resources to improve their service, Comcast will spend big to ensure they never have to compete.

Let Longmont be a lesson. In 2011, Longmont won because it formed an honest citizens’ advisory group: Longmont’s Future. Longmont’s Future got the word out about the vote on Facebook, its website, and the local press.

And ever since, Longmonsters (that’s right—Longmont’s demonym is “Longmonster”) have chosen NextLight over competing services.

Real competition won. Fuck Comcast. Long live municipal broadband.

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