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[Statement] AAPB Warns Communities About Attacks On Broadband Freedom Of Choice

Photo of Gigi B. Sohn

Recently, in several states, big incumbent cable and broadband providers have attempted to stop communities from exercising their freedom to choose the broadband networks that best meet their residents’ needs. The companies do so by hiding behind dark money organizations that misrepresent themselves to residents.

As Gigi Sohn explains in this Salt Lake Tribune Op-Ed, the most recent example of these deceitful tactics is currently taking place in Bountiful City, Utah, where the City Council, after a multi-years process, voted unanimously, 5-0, to provide its residents with lightning fast, universal and affordable fiber broadband service by partnering with UTOPIA Fiber. Although construction of the network was to begin this month, a dark money group called the Utah Taxpayer Association (UTA) has hired a signature gathering company (Gather Utah) that has urged City residents to sign a petition to put the matter to a vote on the November ballot. The UTA has long financial ties to both Comcast and CenturyLink/Lumen, both of which have long opposed community broadband freedom of choice. Residents of Bountiful City have complained that Gather Utah representatives falsely claim both that they represent the city and that the petition is in support of the UTOPIA Fiber project.

Similar tactics have been used by big cable and broadband companies to derail community broadband efforts in communities in Maine, Michigan and other states. In each of these communities, these efforts were unsuccessful, though at a cost for those cities and towns.


Gigi Sohn, Executive Director of AAPB released the following statement:


With billions of dollars for broadband flowing to states thanks to the passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure law, there is a huge opportunity for cities and towns to decide for themselves what kind of broadband networks would best meet the needs of everyone in their communities, not just a wealthy few.

Hundreds of communities throughout the US have decided that the best way to ensure that their residents benefit from universal, affordable and fast broadband networks is to build their own networks, either alone or with industry partners. Hundreds more are considering doing the same. Yet some big cable and broadband companies are working to stop communities like Bountiful City, Utah from exercising their freedom of choice, hiding behind dark money groups and using deceitful tactics. Incumbents are running these campaigns even as they refuse to provide universal connectivity to those communities. This is the worst in anticompetitive behavior – seeking to block new networks in those areas where the incumbents refuse to build.

Community leaders and residents should be aware, even if they already have a community-owned network, that big cable and broadband refuse to give up their over two decade quest to prevent communities from exercising broadband choice, and that they will engage in any and all tactics to do so.




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