Google takes advantage of taxpayer-backed broadband in Missouri, reports show

Google takes advantage of taxpayer-backed broadband in Missouri, reports show

When a taxpayer-backed municipal broadband network in Utah lost money in 2013, Google Fiber saved the day.

Reports show company officials used the same strategy with a municipal broadband network in Missouri, continuing a trend Taxpayer Protection Alliance President David Williams warned Tennessee Watchdog about last month.

GOOGLE FIBER: Theories abound that Google Fiber is propping up municipal broadband so it can save it for pennies on the dollar if and when municipal broadband eventually fails (photo courtesy of https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

GOOGLE FIBER: Theories abound that Google Fiber is propping up municipal broadband so it can save it for pennies on the dollar if and when municipal broadband eventually fails (photo courtesy of https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

As reported, Williams accused Google Fiber executives of pushing for municipal broadband networks because they expect those networks to fail.

Google Fiber then buys those networks for pennies on the dollar, as they did in Provo, Utah, Williams said. Google also affiliates itself with groups advocating for municipal broadband.

Google representatives declined comment but, in a February press release, said they don’t often buy existing municipal broadband networks.

“To date, we’ve built the majority of our Google Fiber networks from scratch,” according to the company.

“But over the past five years we’ve repeatedly seen that every city is unique. So in order to bring Fiber to more people we’ve taken different approaches in different places.”

One such place was North Kansas City, Missouri.

In 2013, says Pitch.com, North Kansas City’s then seven-year-old municipal broadband network, LiNKCity, was “a deficit magnet” that “sagged since its inception.”

The article said the network lost $1 million in 2009 and 2010.

Byron McDaniel (photo courtesy of LinkedIn)

Byron McDaniel (photo courtesy of LinkedIn)

Google Fiber, Pitch said, bailed LiNKCity out with a 20-year deal allowing Google to use the network’s fiber to set up in nearby areas.

North Kansas City spent $10.5 million in gambling revenue from Harrah’s Casino to build the network, according to Pitch.

Google’s deal cost $3.2 million, Pitch reported.

LiNKCity officials did not return repeated requests for comment.

Pitch quoted then LiNKCity Director Byron McDaniel, who said the deal helped the network “break even.”

In the long run, it’s the taxpayers who ultimately back municipal broadband networks.

As reported, Williams and others, including University of Colorado Professor Ronald Rizzuto, believe municipal broadband networks around the country, including those in Tennessee, lose too much money and are destined to collapse.

Google Fiber paid $1 for Provo’s $39 million municipal broadband network after it collapsed.

Steven Titch, an independent policy analyst who specializes in information technology issues, told Tennessee Watchdog last month that Provo’s municipal broadband failed because it took too long to build and, once finished, wasn’t competitive.

Google is also using a municipal broadband network in Huntsville, Alabama, to lay its own fiber.

According to Artstechnica.com, officials in Louisville, Kentucky, for instance, gave Google Fiber easy access to utility poles, despite objections from AT&T and Time Warner Cable.

Google executives are now interested in setting up in Portland, Oregon, and in San Francisco. Officials in both cities plan their own municipal broadband networks.

As reported, Google donates to a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit called Next Century Cities, which advocates for towns and cities that want municipal broadband.

Williams said it makes no sense for Google to align itself with such a group if it plans to compete against municipal broadband.

Next Century Cities Executive Director Deb Socia told Tennessee Watchdog that Google isn’t a major donor to that organization.

The Intercept reported earlier this month that Google officials have “a remarkable partnership” with the Obama White House, which has pushed for more municipal broadband.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org 

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