Should public funding consider track records of potential fund recipients?

Karl Bode, at Tech Dirt, takes a stand on national providers continuing to take public funding despite a record of disgruntled customers and communities. Minnesota’s Chris Mitchell asks policy makers to consider a provider’s record before investing…

So for years I’ve noted if you really want to understand why U.S. broadband is so crappy, you should take a long, close look at Frontier Communications in states like West Virginia. For decades the ISP has provided slow and expensive service, routinely failed to upgrade or repair its network, and generally personified the typical bumbling, apathetic, regional monopoly. And its punishment, year after year, has generally been a parade of regulatory favors, tax breaks, and millions in subsidies. At no point do “telecom policy leaders” or politicians ever try to do much differently.

Case in point: Frontier, fresh off of an ugly bankruptcynumerous AG and FTC lawsuits over repair delays, and repeated subsidy scandals, is positioning itself to nab yet more subsidies from the state of Wisconsin. Frontier is asking the state of for $35 million in additional grants, despite the fact Wisconsin was just one of several states whose AGs recently sued the company for being generally terrible. Folks familiar with the company argue it shouldn’t be seeing a single, additional dime in taxpayer resources given fifteen years of scandal

“I hope the state will seriously consider the track record of companies to understand which ones have a long record of meeting the needs of residents and businesses,” Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative, a Minnesota-based think tank supporting communities’ telecommunications efforts, said in an interview with The Badger Project.

“Frankly, Frontier’s record suggests it should not receive a single additional dollar from any government,” he added. “Local companies, communities, and cooperatives have proven to be much better at turning public subsidies into needed networks.”

Keep in mind Frontier has been accused of taking state and federal subsidies on several occasions, misleadingly billing the government extra, then basically just shrugging when asked for the money back. To date nobody has done much about any of it. Also keep in mind Frontier routinely lobbies for (and often ghost writes) state laws banning towns and cities from building their own broadband networks. They’re also directly responsible for the gutting of state and federal regulatory and consumer protection authority. Facing little real competition and feckless oversight in most states, nothing much changes. By design.

This entry was posted in Funding, Policy, Vendors by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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