The truce with Mediacom might be over after the company received a state franchise agreement under a 2007 law.
The Telegraph Herald
BY M.D. KITTLE, Telegraph Herald ASSISTANT CITY EDITOR
December 29, 2009
The northwest Iowa
community of about 2,500 people more than a decade ago built a
$4 million cable system, only to be temporarily shut down by an
Iowa Supreme Court injunction. Hawarden survived the court's
order prohibiting municipalities from being in the
telecommunications business, and in many respects blazed the
trail for publicly run cable, Internet and phone service in
That's something the city is quite proud of.
"The biggest news in
Hawarden is our municipal telecommunication system we call HiTec
for Hawarden Integrated Technology, Energy and Communications,"
the city's Web site once boasted. "It is the first municipal
cable, telephone and high-speed data transfer utility in
More than 11 years after
the court reversed its decision and ruled with municipalities,
It seems a kind of
uncomfortable truce is in force between public and private cable
providers. Tempers have cooled since late 2005, when voters in a
The city has cried foul,
disputing the competition claim and pointing to fyreSTORM's lack
of infrastructure in
Some have suggested the city revisit the idea of exploring publicly run cable.
"I think we had a mandate from the citizens in 2005 that they wanted to look at doing something different, given by referendum a 2-1 charge to at least explore a (municipal utility)," Councilman Ric Jones said earlier this month.
Just how serious that threat is remains to be seen.
Administrator Loras Herrig, who has led the city's cable system
upgrade, said municipalities owe it to their citizens to provide
services that private enterprise won't. But he advises
Herrig knows well the
headaches. Costs to build
Mediacom asserts the tens of millions of dollars it has spent on infrastructure in the cities it serves proves a disincentive to communities considering the expensive investment of launching a publicly run cable system.
"We just had three
Larsen sent the TH a copy
of a letter from the city of
Telecom providers, such as Qwest, point to what they believe is the most glaring example of failed public cable systems: The Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, also known as UTOPIA. Its critics say the nearly bankrupt fiber-optic network has failed to live up to its high-minded acronym.
Of late, the public provider has taken heat from customers and consumer advocates who charge UTOPIA failed to inform subscribers that their contracts are backed by liens on their homes.
UTOPIA proponents said groups led by private telecom providers, fearing competition, are engaging in scare tactics.
Max Phillips, president
"Our perspective on it is
we'd rather not have local governments compete against the
private sector, when the private sector is willing to provide
the service," said Phillips, president of Qwest's
Bob Haug, executive director for the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, argues public cable systems are keeping up, despite intense competition from private providers with deep pockets.
Haug charges private
telecom providers have failed to deliver the technology
Hawarden's cable system,
like the others in
"It would be a very sensitive issue if you'd bring it up today," he said. "They're proud of the delivery of the service and quality they have. There are no regrets."