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« Cisco Watches Assets over WLAN | Main | Castro-Fi in SF »

May 4, 2005

No More Muni Debate

It is with some relief that I close the few months of discussion of municipal broadband adherents and opponents: I've been writing about the New Millennium Research Council and its parent company Issue Dynamics (IDI) for a few months now since they announced then released with The Heartland Institution its report decrying efforts by municipalities to build their own broadband networks.

It's been tiring and not without stress. My interest doesn't lie in public policy; it lies in technology and its applications. I felt all along and still feel that the NMRC, the authors of its report, and The Heartland Institute did not fully disclose the ties between incumbent interests and themselves when releasing and being interviewed about the report and in interviews in the following months.

The head of IDI points out--see below--that the ties between them and NMRC are disclosure on both Web sites, and that IDI matches experts that have the views that their clients would like more widely heard with NMRC to disseminate them. That is, these views aren't bought and paid for but rather found and distributed.

I can't argue that the report did anything but bring so much attention to the issue that the efforts by incumbents to lobby municipal broadband out of existence were hampered--and that a remarkably amount of discussion ensued all of which has meant a better informed citizenry.

I have been criticized for shooting the messenger, but I've also delved deeply into the debate, brought in opposing views, posted comments by people who are diametrically opposed to me, and pointed to articles on sites that contain views I don't agree with. I've never meant this site or those posts to be a screed against IDI, but I have used the disparaging term sock puppets because of the lack of clarity that they've used in presenting NMRC material to reporters and the public.

In brief, if the NMRC report was issued with this statement, I would probably not have needed to post the majority of my sock puppet category items: "The NMRC is an arm of Issue Dynamics, a public relations firm that represents companies competing in this field. The NMRC presents the analysis of industry experts, who [are or are not] compensated for providing a point of view that's overlooked in this debate." Then we can talk turkey about the content, and the reportage would reflect this source of funding and adjust for it.

What I've talked about less in this forum is the fact that there are a ton of folks on the spectrum from mildly in favor of municipal broadband all the way to the "let's kill the phone company" end. Some of these adherents have believed that I am entirely on their side and that my writing about NMRC and IDI reflected my desire to cast mud on an opponent. That's never been the case. I've been agitated as a reporter trying to make sure the issue is fairly discussed. In fact, I'm a big fan of private enterprise and love some divisions of major telcos--not their lobbying arms--and expect that these telcos will co-opt and extend municipal networking because of this incredible blow-back from their attempts to stifle it.

Here's the crux of this post: it's time to move on! I'm echoing the head of Issue Dynamics, Sam Simon, who engaged my critique in a recent post on the site and responded to my response to his initial comment. I welcome any open, bidirectional discussion of the issues, and I agree with him on one count: It's time to move on and focus my efforts on this site back on its fundamentals, leaving public policy to those wonks that live and breathe it.

Thanks for everyone for a lively few months. You're welcome to post comments below, but I'm done.


Glenn -- Thanks for being one of the few people out there making an effort to understand both sides. I'm researching it for an article, and some public policy veterans (who ought to be used to it) are unhappy with the polarized and sometimes misleading nature of the discussion. So it's not just you. -- Harold

Said by Sam: "We're Not the Consumer's Union and We Don't Pretend to Be"

See though, that's just it. THEY DO pretend do be consumer advocates. That is exactly why so much hostility is fired their direction.

Take a look at this website pushing for USF guidelines that are more beneficial financially to the bells:

Slathered with images of minorities and created by a coalition "pro consumer" groups Issue Dynamics coordinates.

Sam Simon spends his day tricking consumers into frequently voting against their best interests. Can informed and intelligent consumers find data explaining their funding? Yes. Do they? No.

I hope one comment from Sam doesn't keep you from at least reporting on the sector.

Sorry to see you go. We've appreciated your diligent research and investigation in this area. It's real reporting, unlike the "quote" and "counterquote" style so common these days.

Muni ban legislation has the power to shape the market, so it is disappointing to see less coverage of a trend affecting technology adoption.

This is a mistake. You have brought the most sanity to the debate. I am tired of hearing people tell us things without telling us whether they are news or marketing. This is a critical issue in this day and age and for someone to do so correctly is, in my opinion, a very valuable service. You should continue to do so. It is the best reporting you have ever done.

[Editor's note: Shucks, I'm not going to stop writing about municipal broadband, but about this kind of inside-inside-inside baseball stuff that I've spent too much time on now. Points have been made and counter-points, and others can do a better job on that. I want to get back to talking about issues, not funding and so forth.--gf]