Minnesota Cable Companies Fight to Stop Rural Lake County From Getting Broadband

Lake County's County-wide FTTH network has encountered more than its fair share of troubles but residents are excited at the prospect of having broadband access to the Internet. While some of its troubles came from their own confusion and misunderstanding that led to the falling out with their consultants, National Public Broadband, they are now in the cross hairs of a powerful cable industry group - the Minnesota Cable Communications Association.

The Minnesota Cable Communications Association joined the fray at the end of February, sending a massive data request to Lake County and all the governments within the project area. County Attorney Laura Auron said she “objected to the characterization” the cable industry advocate group made about the project. The MCCA wrote that is was “deeply concerned about the shroud of secrecy” about the project, calling efforts to get the project in line with state and federal rules “opaque.”

The association demanded to see the county’s business plan and contracts for the project. It also asked all the cities and townships in the joint powers association, a requirement under the Rural Utilities Service rules for grants and loans, to provide all information regarding the fiber project discussed at council and board meetings.

MCCA exists to protect the interests of its members -- fair enough. Too bad for the folks in Lake County that have no access to the Internet. Because a portion of the project will give the resident of Silver Bay and Two Harbors an actual choice (disrupting the monopoly of Mediacom), MCCA is using a common tactic to delay and disrupt the project: massive public records requests. All the while, MCCA pretends its core mission is advocating on behalf of the beleaguered citizens of Lake County.

We commonly hear from publicly owned networks that they have to deal with constant data requests from competitors. This goes far beyond any reasonable amount as incumbent companies use the requests themselves as a time suck attack against publicly owned networks as well as mischaracterizing any detail they can in an attempt to smear the network.

Communities should be ready for this onslaught. From what we can tell, it never really stops. This is another reason community projects should live in public to the greatest extent possible. Secrecy is not really an option and can consume more energy than community networks can spare.

MCCA is correct that Lake County should act transparently, but its interest lies only in casting doubt and disrupting this potential network because it threatens the monopoly of an MCCA member.


Deeply troubling

This is DEEPLY troubling.  As a resident of Lake County who has no REASONABLE options to internet access, and someone who works from home and requires one, this worries me.  The average citizen of Lake County, I not only require the internet to continue to make my living, but know how important a fast, sustainable fiber optic system is to our economy up here.  I moved here for the beauty, tranquility, and peace the North Shore offers, after struggling for quite a while to figure out how to be able to manage a business that requires high bandwidth internet access.  The availability of internet options like  FTTH are going to make a LOT of people move up here and help the economy because they CAN, as opposed to, well, just being unable to even make that choice.

MCCA's "freedom of choice" campaign = self-serving hypocrisy


Like the gun and tobacco lobbyists, here cometh MCCA (read the "extremely fine print" on your "Let Lake County VOTE" flyer, to find the true source behind this "non-issue") touting freedom of choice, expressing feigned outrage overlaid with half-or-no-truths.

IF the local private sector cable, satellite, phone providers were truly for democratic choice, THEY - THEMSELVES - WOULD HAVE LISTENED TO OUR DECADES-LONG CRY FOR "A-LA-CARTE" PROGRAMMING and invested in fiber infrastructure themselves, but DID they?


Instead (for example, in my personal situation) they ended negotiated package rates and - facing FTTP in Two Harbors by mid-2012 - rather than court whatever remaining customers they could retain to the bitter end, they decided to escalate my bill from $89.95 to $146.95, overnight...

The only way customer "retention" would help was to advise that if "sacrifices" were made (read that: drop HD programming, lose my HD DVR, cut back to basic cable, and reduce internet speeds) the cost would "only" rise to $126.95 per month!

Needless to say, I opted to retain only my internet service (raising THAT specific element's cost by over 50%, but reducing their monthly bill by 27% - to $65.95.

Purchasing a Roku device, adding Netflix, HuluPlus, and Amazon Prime, and receiving local HD channels over-the-air, I'm currently paying nearly as much per month as before, with substantially greater programming of MY choice - not the "fluff" I was formerly forced to acquired, in order to receive the dozen or so channels I sought!

When I add my computer to the HDMI circuit, I'll be able to receive programming from virtually all the networks - traditional and cable - as I am so moved... TRUE FREEDOM OF CHOICE ("a-la-carte")... which is what I've sought for years from cable and satellite providers. 

It is my understanding that private sector providers have been offered access to use this same fiber network to deliver content to their customers at much greater speeds that their current equipment would allow... to eventually reach virtually every household and business in the county – a far greater audience that the currently serve: Despite the legal actions cited in support of their "faux" campaign, none of them comes close to providing the level or distribution that this fiber project proposes, nor would they invest in the provision of such infrastructure themselves (no "reasonable return on investment" foreseen). In fact, at least one of their supposed "support" cases - 'GoMoorhead vs. 702 Communications' - makes my very point, although in reverse: Moorhead's network is limited, whereas 702's utilizes infrastructure of a far greater reach... just as the Lake County FTTP project will far outstrip ANYTHING the private sector is willing or able to provide to us locally.

So please stop stuffing my mailbox with your self-righteous, hypocritical, "offensive" campaign of misinformation and "non-issues", and try improving the lackluster services you presently offer... for as long as you can.

As for me? I can't wait for the arrival of fiber and the improvements and opportunities it will bring, not only to my personal situation but to our extended community as a whole!