Indeed, many municipal broadband projects are undertaken because the Wall Street metric does not work. The town may be too remote, the population may be too sparse, or the demographic nature may not be consistent with the template used by private sector companies in their profit-maximizing decisions on where and whether to deploy. Those are precisely the circumstances, however, in which the community benefits of providing broadband become most profound, and most valuable.
Mediacom Says it Will Not Sue Lake County, Minnesota
In Star Tribune coverage of Mediacom's war against real broadband in rural Minnesota, we learn that Mediacom will not sue Lake County to disrupt its plan to serve thousands of unserved residents and local businesses.
And for all its accusations, Larsen says Mediacom will not sue. Spending millions of dollars on a lawsuit in a place where the company serves so few homes, he said, "is not a great business decision."
We have previously covered the many false and disproved accusations Mediacom have leveled against Lake County. The Strib article reiterates that these charges have been found to have no merit.
The article also reiterates that the County has a real need that private companies have failed to meet:
The conflict that ensued is part of a national struggle. Public officials and some of their constituents argue that rural broadband is like rural electrification: It's a lifeline for small-town America that the free market will not extend.
"We've been ridiculously underserved in this area for years," said Andy Fisher, who owns a Lake County bed-and-breakfast and a rural cross-country skiing lodge. The cable companies "are working in the interest of their profits. But if they're not going to serve this area, what are we going to do?"
And yet, Mediacom sees itself as the underdog!
"Lake County wants to make this into a David and Goliath story, where Mediacom is Goliath and poor little Lake County is David," said Tom Larsen, Mediacom's group vice president of legal and public affairs. "The truth is we're David because we're fighting [the government]. It's just the same story repeated all over the country."
Fascinating. Mediacom has billions in revenues whereas the County deals with budgets in the millions. Sure Mediacom is between 100 and 1000 times bigger than Lake County, it still wants to stop a project serving thousands of unserved people (that it believes is doomed to fail) because it is too disadvantaged.
If Mediacom actually met the needs of its subscribers, it would have little to fear.
I would like to see some reporting about the areas Mediacom purports to serve -- what options do they have? How is the customer service? Mediacom doesn't care about a few thousands people in northern Minnesota, so I feel confident saying that many of the people who only have access through Mediacom will be thrilled to have a real choice and finally gain access to high capacity connections to the Internet.
Finally, the article has yet another example of a rural business that needs this infrastructure:
Likewise, the promise of a new fiber network persuaded Michael Stiff and his wife, Darci, to move their business, Hybridge Imaging, from Duluth to a spot just outside Two Harbors, where they prefer to live.
Current slow processing speeds force them to put clients' data on computer discs or hard drives for manual delivery. Stiff said the fiber network would let Hybridge e-mail data instantly, just like Twin Cities competitors.
Those who believe that wireless alone could solve rural America's problems are foolish. How is this business going to compete with other businesses if their only option were a connection that comes with a 5 or 10 gigabyte monthly cap? And a slower, less reliable connection to boot!
Lake County is doing what it is necessary in the modern age to retain businesses and a high quality of life for its residents. If the private sector had stepped up rather than simply shipping profits from Two Harbors to New York, then I would not be writing this post.
As for whether it will or will not sue, we hope Mediacom stays true to its word. A lawsuit could further disrupt this project, but would certainly fail to stop it.