The citizens of Monticello, MN are going to the polls today (Tuesday, the 18th) in order to vote on a fiber-related initiative. Monticello is at the other end of the big muddy—up near the headwaters of the Mississippi. The vote will be, not to approve the network per se, but to approve using it to provide phone services. —Apparently the Minnesota legislature hasn't been bamboozled into passing anything as draconian as Louisiana's incumbent protection law. On the other hand, the phone approval requires a super-majority vote of 65% the people. Apparently it is important to protect the phone monopoly from a mere democratic majority. So maybe Louisiana needn't be too embarrassed. The city is committed to the project so the vote will only have a negative effect on the construction if it fails to garner a majority.
As you might expect they've had the standard opposition. The incumbents say they are just worried about helping out the local taxpayer and intimate that the locals are incompetent to run their own system. But Monticello has also had its loyal defenders. And the defenders are a hardy bunch by all evidence.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. By that measure Mike and I are flattered. The pro-fiber website's URL is MonticelloProFiber.com. Nifty—may a thousand "X___ProFiber.com" bloom! Their front page right now points to two incidents that will sound familiar to Lafayette citizens and to the citizens of across the country who've faced similar opposition. In one the local cable incumbent has threatened a local business (shades of the Cingular call center) and in the other they've had to endure phone calls that lie about the project's funding (like Lafayette's, no tax dollars are involved; it will be paid for by revenue bonds). Our series of push polls was similarly misleading.
There are other parallels: The mayor is willing to slug it out toe to toe; such leadership was essential here and the people of Monticello are well served by their mayor:
Make no mistake; this citywide project is a war to the current providers. They don’t want competition. Current providers of telecommunications will use scare tactics and disinformation in communities where municipalities are forward thinking and look to build their own fiber network....That kind of forthrightness would do a Durel or Huval proud.
Now this is funny if it wasn’t so sad. Last week I received a phone call at my home from an anti-fiber group caller. They told me two lies. The first was that the City of Monticello was building a fiber network which duplicated services by TDS. Secondly, they told me the fiber network was going to cost the taxpayers of Monticello $25 million. Both of these statements were lies and the spread of misinformation. I told the caller that I read in the local newspaper that revenue bonds were paying for the fiber network and asked if they knew about that? They said, “No.” I told them the fiber network is not going to cost the taxpayers a single dollar because revenue bonds don’t raise taxes. I finally asked where this person was calling from and they told me, “Nebraska.” Obviously, this person was not a concerned citizen of Monticello. They were hired by the big guns to make these calls.
I caution the citizens of Monticello, beware of the lies told in the newspaper ads from cable companies fronting as “Concerned Citizens Against Fiber” and Web site called Monticello Fiber Mistake Coalition when they are supported by industry groups outside of our community. Don’t be concerned with phone calls you receive that are propaganda from the anti-fiber group who is uneducated about the facts here in Monticello.
There is also, clearly, an aroused citizenry. Richard Van Allen says:
If you read last week's Times, you saw a half page ad authorized and placed by Mike Martin of Saint Paul as Treasurer for the “Monticello Fiber Mistake” folks, a coalition comprised of state associations for the Telecom and Cable TV industry. These are not local citizens who live in the Monticello community. He is speaking for the Telco and cable industry which does not want local competition for better services or better prices. Mike is obviously not a citizen of Monticello and speaks for an industry that has fiercely attacked any new services coming into the communities they serve. Why should citizens of Monticello be persuaded by the paid spokesman of the Telco and cable industries?James B. Fleming:
At the September 18 referendum-Vote YES for Choice; say No to a monopoly.
All I ask is that you take the time to find out the facts before you vote. Don’t be scared into a “No” vote by inaccurate information being pumped into the community by greedy corporations with no interest in Monticello’s future other than their own pocketbooks.The city also has an informational pro-fiber website.
It's reassuring to know that the battle is the same all over.
So light a candle for the good guys.
UPDATE: The city fiber site heralds the victory: 1,055 Voted YES • 354 Voted NO. That's more than enough to win the super majority vote and assure that the city will be able to offer a triple play package that includes phone service.