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Comcast Donates Heavily To Defeat Mayor Who Is Bringing Gigabit Fiber To Seattle 356

Posted by Soulskill
from the you've-lost-the-torrenter-vote dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Andrea Peterson reports in the Washington Post that one of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn's big policy initiatives has been expanding the quality and quantity of high-speed Internet access throughout the city. However incumbent providers, particularly Comcast, have invested heavily in defeating McGinn in the mayoral election. While Comcast denies there is any connection between McGinn's broadband policies and their donations, the company has given thousands of dollars to PACs that have, in turn, given heavily to anti-McGinn groups. One of McGinn's core promises in the 2009 campaign was to 'develop a city-wide broadband system.' The mayor considered creating a citywide broadband system as a public utility, like water or electricity. But aides say that would have been too expensive, so the mayor settled on public-private partnerships using city-owned dark fiber. This dark fiber was laid down starting in 1995, and the mayor's office now says there are some 535 miles of it, only a fraction of which is being used. In June, the partnership, called Gigabit Squared, announced pricing for its Seattle service: $45 dollars a month for 100 Mbps service or $80 a month for 1 Gbps service plus a one-time installation cost of $350 that will be waived for customers signing a one-year contract. For comparison, Comcast, one of the primary Internet providers in the area, offers 105 Mbps service in the area for $114.99 a month, according to their website. If Comcast is indeed attempting to sway the election, it would fall in line with a larger pattern of telecom interests lobbying against municipal efforts to create their own municipal broadband systems or leveraging city-owner fiber resources to create more competition for incumbent providers. Peterson writes, '...if Comcast's donations help Murray defeat McGinn, it will send a powerful message to mayors in other American cities considering initiatives to increase broadband competition.'"
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Comcast Donates Heavily To Defeat Mayor Who Is Bringing Gigabit Fiber To Seattle

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  • It's good for the gov't, and good for the corps too!

    Shame We the People get screwed when they use it

    • *End* This System

    • It's good for the gov't, and good for the corps too!

      Shame We the People get screwed when they use it

      Corporations are People, too!

  • by wiredlogic (135348) on Friday November 01, 2013 @12:29PM (#45301173)

    It would be nice if they'd offer 10Mbps to $10.

  • And this is why... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XPeter (1429763) on Friday November 01, 2013 @12:29PM (#45301177) Homepage

    ...Lobbying needs to be illegal. Period.

    • by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Friday November 01, 2013 @12:43PM (#45301343)

      Lobbying used to be called bribery. Funds for campaigns should be taken from the city/state/country funds, in equal parts for all candidates.

      • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Friday November 01, 2013 @01:02PM (#45301563)

        Funds for campaigns should be taken from the city/state/country funds, in equal parts for all candidates.

        Wonderful! Im a candidate. Funds, please.

      • by Jawnn (445279)

        Lobbying used to be called bribery.

        Not anymore. Corporations are people too, you insensitive clod. Our Supreme Court, in their lofty wisdom, has said so. You're just jealous because our corporate citizens can buy more and better politicians than you.

        . Funds for campaigns should be taken from the city/state/country funds, in equal parts for all candidates

        Public campaign financing. That's just crazy talk. Next thing you'll be wanting is instant run-off elections so that honest public servants would stand a chance against "friendly" candidates bought and paid for by your corporate betters. Learn your place, sir.

      • Even if you fund campaigns from public money, what's to stop an unaffiliated party from expressing political views that may influence voter decisions? Are you going to ban Micheal Moore or Jon Steward from making political statements in the media? That's what the Citizens United decision was really about.
    • by alexhs (877055) on Friday November 01, 2013 @12:53PM (#45301461) Homepage Journal

      if Comcast's donations help Murray defeat McGinn, it will send a powerful message to mayors in other American cities considering initiatives to increase broadband competition.

      This is the USA, completely oblivious to the message that most other developed counties would get, which is indeed that corruption should be illegal, not called "lobbying" and legal.
      Here again you have the 1% ruling the country acting against the 99%, and the relayed message is that the 1% elected representatives better bow to the 1% rulers. And what's the point of electing representatives, then ?

    • by istartedi (132515)

      ...Lobbying needs to be illegal. Period.

      Define lobbying. If I write my Congressman and say, "stop the dam". I've just lobbied. I think what you're really aiming at is, me writing the Congressman and saying, "Remember me? I'm one of your tier-1 donors who also donated an extra $100,000 to your PAC. Build the dam".

      The former is a legitimate functioning of our system. The latter is bribery that flies under the radar because some lawyers baked just the right logic pretzel so, "money is speech".

      IMHO, get

      • If I write my Congressman and say, "stop the dam". I've just lobbied. I think what you're really aiming at is, me writing the Congressman and saying, "Remember me? I'm one of your tier-1 donors who also donated an extra $100,000 to your PAC. Build the dam". ... The former is a legitimate functioning of our system. The latter is bribery that flies under the radar because some lawyers baked just the right logic pretzel so, "money is speech".

        Forget about the donations; they're an irrelevant distraction. The real problem is representative acting against the interests of the very people they're supposed to represent. If a politician accepts a bribe and yet still does the right thing (which may or may not be what he was bribed to do) then there is no problem. If the same politician does not take any bribes, but votes against his constituents' interests, that's a problem.

        My proposal would be to allow any representative's constituents to hold a vote

    • Funny thing about the first amendment. It includes this line about having the right to petition the government. Guess what that's also known as. "Lobbying"

      Lobbying in general is not a Bad Thing (TM). But it's current incarnation, where money is proportional to the amount of ear- or face-time you get with your representative, is definitely not what the founders had in mind. Of course they also had in mind that only white male land owners could have any say in anything... so take that with a grain of salt.

      At

    • by Xyrus (755017)

      Lobbying used to have a legitimate purpose. Then money got involved.

  • And Yet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fullback (968784) on Friday November 01, 2013 @12:33PM (#45301219)

    people will continue to parrot the line that the reason the U.S. has expensive and slow internet service is because the country is too big.
    "It's too big!"
    Nonsense. If it's too big, how in the world did you get those water, sewer and phone lines?
    Watch how many people will say the same thing again and again in comments below.
    "It's too big!"

    • by medv4380 (1604309)
      If we're arguing about places like Middle of Nowhere Northern Idaho not having broadband then yes it's too big. The terrain is too obtuse to put Phone Lines, or Cable Lines out to every little place. Every town or City, sure. Every farm, ranch, or cabin? Not happening.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The "It's too big" argument only applies in the country or in small towns (like here in Montana). After all, most of these areas do not have sewer or water lines but instead use septic and wells. But it makes absolutely no sense in the big cities of the United States where all of this infrastructure exists. We shouldn't be concerned that some areas have expensive Internet service, but it is concerning that everyone has expensive Internet service.

    • by faedle (114018)

      Well, because water and sewer lines don't need to connect to a national network, and the "hard work" of building the phone infrastructure was paid for when we had a different regulatory regime. In fact, most small towns in the US would still have small independent exchanges with poor (or no) connectivity to the national network if it wasn't for some key regulatory decisions made in the 1930's and 1940's.

      It IS, in fact, too big given our current way our telecommunications infrastructure is paid for. The on

      • Re:And Yet (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mrchaotica (681592) * on Friday November 01, 2013 @01:43PM (#45302049)

        It IS, in fact, too big given our current way our telecommunications infrastructure is paid for. The only incentive telecom companies have is a profit motive, and spending $10 million to pull a high-capacity fiber or build a digital microwave relay to a place like Burns, Oregon to only service a few hundred subscribers doesn't return the kind of investment today's stockholders want

        Under the current incentives, telecom companies don't even have an incentive to pull fiber even in large cities! That's the goddamn problem here!

        The rural fiber cost issue is a red herring. It is absolutely not an excuse for failing to provide decent connectivity in urban areas. (For example, I live about 3 miles from the center of a metro area containing 5 million people, and all I can get is Comcast cable for $$$$$, shit DSL, or shit Wi-Max.) This should be considered absolutely unacceptable in 2013 in urban America.

        The real issue is regulatory capture, and anyone who says otherwise is a lying asshole shill.

    • by sl4shd0rk (755837)

      The internet service in the country.. it's-- it's... It's too big!

    • Nonsense. If it's too big, how in the world did you get those water, sewer and phone lines?

      Plain Old Telephone Service lines are a lot cheaper than hi-speed data pipes.

      And water lines? Sewer lines? In the house I grew up in we didn't have such a thing. Most people in truly rural settings don't. Like them, we had a well (with an electric pump to give us running water in the house) and a septic tank and field.

  • Kleptocracy... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mspohr (589790) on Friday November 01, 2013 @12:37PM (#45301271)

    This is just the way capitalism works in the US. Corporations buy politicians (and get rid of politicians who don't go along with their program).
    The free market is wonderful.
    USA is number 1 !!!!

    • by Entropius (188861)

      That's not a free market. That's crony capitalism, which is condemned in no uncertain terms by the free-market types.

  • by froggymana (1896008) on Friday November 01, 2013 @12:38PM (#45301287)

    Isn't this what Google wanted? I've always been under the impression that Google didn't necessarily want to become a large ISP, but instead wanted to spark competition.

  • I'm shocked that businesses and politicians are playing hard ball!
  • Businesses aren't people, they can't vote. Why are they allowed to donate vast sums of money to politicians? And we wonder why we are in the lobbyist->politician->corporation mess we're in now.

    • Why are businesses allowed to donate vast sums of money?

      Because the people who set the rules are politicians. Politicians who get vast sums of money from businesses and don't want to see those vast sums go away. So they might make some token rules to make it seem like they're getting rid of the vast sums, but they won't REALLY get rid of the vast sums.

      It's the same reason why the "politician pushes a lobbying firms agenda->retires->gets a cushy job in said lobbying firm->lobbies his former "co-wo

  • RTFA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jklovanc (1603149) on Friday November 01, 2013 @12:42PM (#45301333)

    According to the numbers in the article a Comcat executive contributed $700 and the company contributed $10,000 to PACs. Sorry buit I doubt that $10,700 will buy an election.
    Look at all contribution to People for Ed Murray [wa.gov]. The total contribution are $122,800 making Comcast's contribution 8.7%.

    • When elections are won or lost based a few percentage points, then giving a 8.7% boost to a campaign can certainly sway the outcome.
  • by SirLoper (827094) on Friday November 01, 2013 @12:43PM (#45301349)
    Already in the US, we pay more per Mb/s than pretty much any other 1st world country. This isn't due to the size, as some would have you believe, but rather due to the lack of oversight, regulation and, most importantly, competition. There are no laws preventing the formation of what basically become monopolies from companies such as Comcast, where they can charge what they want and basically print their own money. I sincerely hope that they are not successful in basically paying to avoid having real competition. I know I, personally, would love to have "real" Internet speeds provided to me at world-comparable rates, no matter if they came from State, county, city or private sources. Just bring it on!
    • by Shados (741919)

      Unless things changed while i wasn't looking, at least Canada and Australia, very much first world countries, are getting screwed over way more than the US. I know Canada had a lot of oversight, too.

      Its mainly just lack of competition that's the issue. Regulations are definitely needed, but alone they do nothing if no one wants to play ball with the rules.

  • by Crashmarik (635988) on Friday November 01, 2013 @12:49PM (#45301413)

    I don't care what any of these companies do as long as they aren't my only choice.

  • by X.25 (255792) on Friday November 01, 2013 @12:50PM (#45301433)

    ...in the US is called "lobbying".

    Quite sad, actually.

  • It's far from obvious that providing broadband using public infrastructure is a good idea. Why shouldn't Comcast oppose it? If not companies who have an interest in not seeing it happen, then who is going to oppose it?

    • by cusco (717999)

      Perhaps someone who can come up with some rational reason WHY it isn't a good idea?

    • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Friday November 01, 2013 @05:07PM (#45305057) Journal

      It's not for Comcast to judge whether it is a good or a bad idea. It is for the people of Seattle to decide.

      If no-one but the broadband companies has an interest in not seeing it happen, then it's probably a good idea. After all, why should the rest of us make decisions based on what's best for broadband companies? The viability of their business model is not the concern of the general public; if someone else can provide the same service better and cheaper, too bad for them.

  • In an earlier time, the voters would have approved of broadband access as a public utility without much hesitation. We still have some public utilities today in the wake of those times (thank God). But such debates today are off-limits due to corporate ownership of the media. Notice how quickly Obama threw the single-payer advocates under the bus when the debates over health care began. That was a complete capitulation to the health insurance industry.(And some of you are naive enough to believe Obama is a

    • Back in the Stone Age, projects that were "too expensive" were paid for with bonds, which were repaid by the revenues generated by the project. Apparently now that's socialism, and we can't have that. Or nice things. Or decent broadband.
  • by EMG at MU (1194965) on Friday November 01, 2013 @01:04PM (#45301599)
    Is there huge public backlash against Citizens United? Are people marching in the streets against corporate "lobbying"? Are people dumping Comcast because they disagree with their business practices? Will people come out in droves to denounce McGinn's opponent for benefiting from sweet corporate cash? Are the corporations who will do _anything_ to make a profit getting the message that the public disagrees with their business practices?

    No.

    Stories like this make me upset, because its the same as story about one soldier dying in a war where millions of soldiers are killed. This is one tiny example of how business works in America. Every day in every federal, state, county, and city goverment shit like this happens. Lets have a discussion about that.
  • Overselling it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Friday November 01, 2013 @01:19PM (#45301793)

    If Comcast's donations help Murray defeat McGinn, it will send a powerful message to mayors in other American cities considering initiatives to increase broadband competition.

    This article was written by someone who didn't do their homework.

    There are a lot of reasons McGinn is probably going to be voted out. I doubt anyone's even going to connect his defeat with his lip-service regarding city-wide fiber.

    McGinn has consistently pissed off both the business community in Seattle and large chunks of its citizenry. It all started before he was mayor - a lot of people were leery he was too much of an ideologue. As candidates do, he claimed he'd be pragmatic - promising he wouldn't let his personal opposition to the Highway 99 tunnel affect his mayoral decisions regarding the voter-approved project. Of course he got into office and immediately did everything he could to derail the project (but failed miserably - in addition to being an ideologue, the dude is not an effective leader). Anyway, it's gone downhill from there...

  • Boy did they point the scope right at their foot. If I were the mayor, I'd get in front of some cameras and tear them a new ass. I'd say exactly what they're doing any why, call them greedy and evil, and tell anyone who supports me to switch to another ISP. There goes a couple hundred thousands customers. Then Comcast might re-assess how wise it was from a profit standpoint to try something so stupid.
  • We have separation of church and state.
    There should also be a separation of corporations and state.
  • by mschuyler (197441) on Friday November 01, 2013 @01:51PM (#45302131) Homepage Journal

    McGinn is mayor of Seattle, but not well-liked. First, he's a bully. He does the kinds of things you all condemn Comcast for doing. He uses his power to close down businesses he doesn't like. He closes roads so he can make them for bicycles. He opposed the tunnel that is going to clean up Seattle's waterfront. Meanwhile crime is up so much that it is unsafe to walk the streets. His response: Businesses should be gun-free zones. He's the opposite of the "Progressive" he thinks he is and ANYTHING that can stop McGinn is a good thing, including Comcast. Why is it okay for McGinn to do the things you condemn Comcast for doing? Living in a city like Seattle is not all about sitting home safe alone in your basement with oodles of bandwidth; it's about being able to walk to the corner grocery without being harassed by a "homeless victim" who wants you to turn out your pockets for him.

    • by Entropius (188861)

      This is urban authoritarianism everywhere. But the whole "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" mentality ("whoever can stop him is a good thing") is just playing into the hands of urban authoritarians: the problem isn't this policy or that policy, it's the idea of politicians generally who abuse their office to amass more power.

      It is not okay for McGinn to do the things people are condemning Comcast for doing. Both of them are bad, and we should have neither, but voting for a lizard to stop the wrong lizard

  • it won't be because of this, it will be because the majority of people don't like taking out general purpose traffic lanes that carry 30K cars a day to make them dedicated bike lanes carrying 200 bikes a day

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