A cable company in the United States Midwest has been accused of being an astroturfer because it carried out an astroturfing campaign against a city-sponsored fiber network.
The town that wants to improve its own internet by adding more companies and even home users is being criticized on social media sites – including the city’s own website.
About Fidelity Communications campaign against competitors
A city stopped funding internet. They started a website and social media account to tell people the city stopped funding the internet. More precisely:
- the website;
- a Twitter account.
Fidelity Communications has now admitted it was behind the astroturfing initiative.
Stop city-funded internet: the reasons
The company is worried that expansion will hurt their business because they are one of few existing competitors in the area that offer cable services via fiber-optic networks. With more businesses offering high-speed access for employees, potential customers might turn away from Fidelity’s slower service or even move where better choices exist.
Although Stop City-Funded Internet claims not to be associated with any corporation or political party, research suggests otherwise. Research shows that much of the work surrounding stopping city-funded internet is done by a monopolist cable company Fidelity Communications.
How Fidelity Communications filled power plants from using internet strategies
The group, named Stop City-funded Internet, has been an outspoken critic of Missouri’s effort to expand its broadband network into areas beyond the city limits. The group, which does not have a phone number listed in its online filing, has made repeated appearances on talk radio and Internet message boards to warn of what it calls the “onerous” regulations the city is pursuing.
The Stop City-funded Internet is particularly critical of the fact that the fiber optics network, which is being developed by Kinkshoven, Inc., is being implemented by the City of St. Louis, rather than by the residents of the region. The group also questions the legality of the city’s pursuit of fiber optics, since it is not a public entity and therefore not subject to the same municipal contracting rules as utilities and service companies such as cable companies are.
Stop city-funded internet in court
The group, headed by Missourians for Connectivity and Technology, or MCT, has also filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging violations of the state constitutional provision guaranteeing freedom of association. The suit names as defendants two members of the city’s board of supervisors, and requests a court hearing on the issue. It is likely, though, that the litigation will not become a full-blown battle between city officials and ISP providers; instead, it may fizzle out, without producing any significant results. One reason why this is likely will be the group’s lack of name identification, which is required for public lawsuits. It is also likely that the suit will be granted preliminary status, meaning that the case will move forward only if it is successful in raising important issues before the courts. This means that any issues that the suit raises, whether good or bad, will not likely be resolved until the case gets before the courts.
Stop city-funded internet potential problems
Another factor that makes the city’s plan to stop city-funded internet access a potentially problematic proposal is the fact that it will likely be difficult, if not impossible, for subscribers to avoid this connection. For those who use the internet and pay their monthly fees, they will have to choose either unlimited local internet or unlimited dial-up from a local ISP. Those who do not use these services will be forced to subscribe to a city-provided internet connection. If they cannot subscribe via this means, they will be subject to the city’s internet access policies.
When the city’s Board of Economic and Public Safety approved the mayor’s request to stop city-funded internet access, the board included language in the budget request that said that such a policy would likely be adopted. The budget did not specify the method by which such a policy would be implemented, so the City Council was left to the ad hoc process of amending the existing language, which was done during the regular city council meeting. During the meeting, the public spoke out against this proposal, with some residents claiming that it was an attempt to increase taxes. These residents implied that such an action could adversely affect the city’s fiscally conservative reputation.
At the same time, some residents spoke out in support of the campaign. One such resident, identified as Jane Doe, told the board that she had signed up for the fiber network because she “favors a healthy, green environment”. She went on to say that she did not support the campaign to stop city-funded internet access because she believed that people were being “misused” by the campaign. Specifically, she opposed the campaign’s proposed ban on advertisements. This ban, she claimed, would prevent citizens from exercising their right to free speech.
In a meeting later that day, mayor Anthony Antonio said that he was not concerned with the opinions of some citizens regarding the campaign. He added that he believed in the “power of the purse” to ensure that citizens are allowed to exercise their rights. This statement came in response to complaints that the internet campaign was being used as an attempt to drum up support for the broadband project. During the meeting, Antonio also implied that he felt that citizens were being overcharged by the campaign and urged them to contact their cable companies to work something out.
The mayor’s comment came after several residents spoke out against the broadband plan, many stating that they were paying far too much for internet service. After listening to the speakers, the West Plains City Council voted to approve the internet plan. Unfortunately, just a few months later the internet contract has been re-negotiated. Now the same situation has emerged where citizens are being charged more money than ever before.
There are several issues that have come into play in this latest example of how an internet campaign can come back to haunt a municipality. One of those issues is the fact that the original proposal called for ISPs to submit forms for customers who didn’t want to pay for internet service to sign. Although the forms were published online, it took officials three months to get them to submit the forms to customers who had moved. Residents and business owners have filed hundreds of claims with the court claiming that the delay was intentional, which is why the city is now looking into steps to stop city-funded internet initiatives called file names.
Kate Lintos is a Social Media Specialist. After graduating in Graphic Design and Communication, she decided to give digital agencies a try. She worked for a multiple big-clients company and learned from some of the best of the best! She managed an innovative startup social media and marketing strategy, learned everything you’d ever want to know about search engines and advertising, created content for brands and managed their paid social ad strategy. All while working as a freelancer Social Media Expert.