Just weeks after the Tallahassee City Commission began exploring the potential to create a high speed fiber network, Comcast and the larger incumbent ISPs (internet service providers) jumped into action to oppose any effort to stop Comcast’s internet monopoly in Tallahassee.
The City of Tallahassee is going to be voting soon to examine modernizing it’s connectivity requirements, including looking at building a high speed fiber project. High speed fiber networks are owned by cities and sell their services to residents similar to public utilities. Tallahassee owns it’s electric utilities and water, offering their services directly to residents. Tallahassee residents generally only have access to Comcast and Century Link.
Fiber internet is offered to only 9% of Tallahassee residents, while an estimated 7,000 residents have no access to internet at all. In December, the Tallahassee City Commission voted unanimously to having staff bring back information about a high speed fiber project. On March 6th, the City Commission was presented with information about existing broadband in a workshop, and the Commission voted 3-2 to have staff bring back a feasibility study RFP to explore the options more. Commissioners Dianne Williams-Cox, Jeremy Matlow, and Elaine Bryant supported the motion.
Since March 6th, telecommunications lobbyists have swarmed the City seeking to stamp out any opposition to their monopoly. Despite not registering to lobby, Comcast has had multiple lobbyists swarming City Hall and seeking to kill the City’s study.
Fiber internet is offered to only 9% of Tallahassee residents, while an estimated 7,000 residents have no access to internet at all.
In addition, a Florida based company was created, the Florida Alliance for Consumers & Taxpayers, Inc. on February 2nd, 2019. The organization is a federally registered 501c4 organization, which is not required to report it’s donors publicly and can spend unlimited amounts of money on political communications since the 2010 United States Supreme Court ruling Citizens United v. FEC.
The Koch Brothers, who were the primary funder for Citizens United have spent a fortune shaping American politics using the 501c4 loophole since it’s ruling, including opposing a high speed fiber project in Louisville, Kentucky using a 501c4 called “The Taxpayers Protection Alliance”.
The Florida Alliance for Consumers & Taxpayers address is listed as a UPS store in Tallahassee. Beginning in late February, an associated Facebook page began running ads prompting users to “like” it’s Facebook page, a common tactic to gather support prior to running political attack ads from Facebook and other social media platforms.
On March 13th, Lee Hinkle, a former Florida Chamber of Commerce lobbyist, and a listed Director of the Florida Alliance for Consumers & Taxpayers penned an op-ed in the Tallahassee Democrat that was highly critical of the high speed fiber project.
Just one day later, Florida State University Professor of Economics Mark Isaac wrote a similar op-ed in the Tallahassee Democrat. However, what was not disclosed in the op-ed is that Mark Isaac was the primary voice seeking Koch funding for FSU in 2015 for his department.
As reported by Bridge Project in 2015, Mark Isaac stated it would be a violation of his departments autonomy to not be able to accept the money from the Koch brothers. The Kochs have a history of objecting to cities’ efforts to create high speed fiber projects, which was well covered in a WIRED.com article in 2017. The Koch Brothers and Comcast have a history of leveraging academic resources to support their public policy goals, and the Koch-funded FSU Economic department is a resource well paid for.