A month ago we were following the election in Fort Collins in which Comcast had invested heavily to oppose a measure to allow Fort Collins can pave the way for a future municipal network. Comcast lost their bid to buy the election and their recent campaign report reveals that the bankroll they spent was much more than anyone realized.
Close To A Million
When we analyzed Comcast’s investment in the Fort Collins election for our report, Comcast Spends Big on Local Elections: Would Lose Million in Revenue from Real Broadband Competition, we looked at the logic behind the big ISP’s investment to stop measure 2B. At the time, the front for Comcast and CenturyLink, Priorities First Fort Collins, had only spent about $200,000. Within two weeks of releasing our report, that figure rose to more than $450,000. The last campaign report, filed in early December, reports that the organization spent approximately $450,000 more. All told, the total amount spent by Priorities First Fort Collins for the compaign came to a whopping $900,999.
The grassroots organization Fort Collins Citizens’ Broadband Committee spent a little more than $15,000.
The measure to pass 2B to allow Fort Collins to amend its charter to simplify moving forward with a municipal network utility passed with 57 percent of the vote.
We looked at how much both sides spent and how their investments paid off. The anti-muni faction thought they could win by throwing money at the voters, but the locals who understand the problem in the community knew that education and leg-work were the key:
Learn about what it was like in the trenches for the Fort Collins Citizens' Broadband Committee by listening to Christopher interview Glen Akins and Colin Garfield in episode 282 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.
Surpassing All Others
By comparison, incumbent Comcast spent approximately $200,000 to oppose a referendum in Longmont in 2009 and $300,000 again in Longmont in 2011. Since voters in Longmont passed their referendum, the community has gone on to create it’s municipal network utility, NextLight. Fort Collins and other Colorado communities considering ways to improve broadband often look at NextLight as a model. Longmont’s network has improved connectivity for residents, schools and municipal facilities, and boosted economic development.
While their investment in the Fort Collins election may not have paid off, we expect to see more targeted efforts to sway voters and to influence policy makers through lobbying efforts. National ISPs like Comcast, CenturyLink, and AT&T know that municipal networks mean competition they don’t want to face.