Opelika Votes Yes, Will Build Smart-Grid Fiber Network

Despite a coordinated campaign by cable incumbent Charter that offered little honest debate or accurate claims, the citizens of Opelika voted yes on their referendum to allow the city to build a broadband network. The City's public power utility will use the network for smart-grid services and a private company will likely contract to deliver triple-play services.

Opelika's Mayor had this reaction:

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Mayor Fuller also said:

It’s a great day for Opelika. It’s a great day for our future. It’s a terrible day for Charter,”

One gets the sense that the Mayor took some umbrage at Charter's tactics to prevent the community from building its own network.

The day before the election, Stop the Cap! ran a fantastic article about Charter's manufactured opposition to the community network.

Phillip Dampier investigated the background and claims of prominent opponents, including Jack Mazzola, who might as well have written some of the articles in the local paper about the Smart-Grid project for how often he was quoted by the reporter (who often failed to offer a countering view from anyone in support of the network).

Jack Mazzola claims to be a member of Concerned Citizens of Opelika and has become a de facto spokesman in the local press.  He claims he is “30 years old and have been a resident of Opelika for almost two years.” During that time, he evidently forgot to update his active Facebook page, which lists his current city of residence as Atlanta, Georgia.  Suspicious readers of the local newspaper did some research of their own and claim Mr. Mazzola has no history of real estate or motor vehicle taxes paid to Lee County, which includes Opelika.

Any community considering a referendum on this issue should read this Stop the Cap! post and learn from it because massive cable companies like Charter all use the same tactics in community after community. When communities do not have a response ready, they can suffer at the polls.

If you are suspicious about the viability of municipal fiber, simply ask yourself if they are such failures, why do phone and cable companies spend millions to lobby against them?  Why the blizzard of scare mailers, robocalls, astroturf opposition groups, and lawsuits — all to stop what many opponents continually claim are competitive and operational failures?

The answer is, most municipal projects, like co-ops and community owned utilities, are more than viable. 

At any rate, Opelika's citizens did not fall for Charter's astroturf campaign.

Opelika is the latest to refute any notion that community broadband networks are a partisan issue. The City Council President noted:

“As a council we have never been more unified on a single matter than we have been on this,” Smith said. “Now we’re going to go to work, do things right and do things transparently.”

When it comes to these local issues of self-determination, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives agree that self-reliance is far superior to continued dependence on absentee-owned incumbents.