Cable operator Fidelity caught astroturfing municipal broadband in Missouri

Astroturf
Fidelity has admitted to working with an Arizona advertising agency to set up the website. (Home Depot)

A website set up to try and stop a municipal broadband project in West Plains, Missouri, was financed by the cable company that has the city’s charter, Fidelity Communications.

An observant local West Plains resident produced a YouTube video outlining the rather damning evidence tying the cable company to the stopcityfundedinternet.com website. 

The site claims, “the City of West Plains is considering building an unnecessary taxpayer-funded internet service—a decadeslong, high-risk project. Instead of putting our tax dollars at risk and letting the government run our internet, West Plains should focus on more pressing priorities, like fixing our roads and bridges, increasing public safety and supporting our schools.”

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Fidelity has admitted to working with an Arizona advertising agency to set up the website. On a Facebook page tied to the campaign, Fidelity posted a letter in which it outlines “efforts and investments” made to appease West Plains city officials. 

Despite this, Fidelity said, “The city has contracted fiber, purchased equipment and engaged consultants to overbuild our infrastructure and comet with us. The city has taken these actions with only limited input from residents, and certainly without a vote of the public.”

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Fidelity is among a number of broadband service providers facing competition from city-funded broadband networks. And it is not alone in being accused of creating bogus consumer backlash (i.e. “astroturfing”) to try to sway public support against these projects.

As Fierce noted two weeks ago, Comcast appears to be once again working with conservative think tank The American Enterprise Institute to influence public opinion on the municipal broadband issue.