Lafayette residents should be prepared for a barrage of misinformation arriving at their homes during the two weeks leading up to the July 16 municipal fiber vote ("Tri-Cities Trials," May 25). SBC has a monopoly on DSL service and Comcast has a monopoly on cable TV service here, so they pulled out all the stops.
One specious idea they kept repeating is that government shouldn't compete against private industry. We need modern high-speed communications here in the Tri-Cities, but we represent too small a market for SBC or Comcast to invest the money needed to provide it. All three towns straddle the Fox River, and all three started their own electric utilities in the 19th century. Many people feel that if that hadn't been done, we wouldn't have had electricity here until about 1950.
As part of those electric utility operations, all three towns installed fiber optic municipal networks connecting all municipal facilities, including electric substations. The municipal employees who installed, operate and maintain the systems belong to the same union as those of SBC and Comcast. In recent years, the networks were expanded to connect with all the schools, so the networks already exist in every neighborhood of all three towns.
But, to hear SBC and Comcast tell it, a municipal fiber optic network ' to provide up-to-date phone, TV and Internet service to residents and businesses here ' would be a very risky proposition. They painted a picture of the enterprise failing, leaving no assets to liquidate, so that the taxpayers would have to foot the bill, rather than the subscribers. They claimed no other such municipal fiber optic enterprise has been successful. (It so happens that I have four relatives living in other parts of the country served by such municipal fiber optic networks, so I know better.)
They made those allegations in an expensive campaign that flooded the area in the days just before the election. Fiber For Our Future spent about $3,000, while SBC and Comcast admit to having spent more than $300,000, which may or may not include time spent by employees. Trying to tell the truth was like whistling in a windstorm. Nevertheless, broadband for the Tri-Cities received 47 percent of the vote, so a good share of the population realizes the need.
Being forewarned is forearmed. We wish Lafayette all the best. We will be watching to see if you can figure out how to thwart the incumbents' tactics.