Voters in Fort Dodge, Iowa approved the establishment of a municipal telecommunications utility yesterday by a wide margin. The approval came despite efforts from a local incumbent operator and a national anti-government watchdog group to convince voters that a city-owned utility was a risky venture.
”Shall the city of Fort Dodge, in Webster County, Iowa, establish a municipal telecommunications utility (including the potential provision of video, voice, data, and all other forms of telecommunications and cable communications services) for the city?”
1,772 voters cast a YES ballot (71.6%) with 683 (28.4%) voting NO. One of the keys to success in the referendum was strong support by local media in Fort Dodge. A popular local radio personality was very vocal in his support of the referendum and in his criticism of the Taxpayer Protection Alliance, the national issue advocacy group that was running a vote no campaign. The Fort Dodge Messenger also was supportive, including an endorsement from their editorial board and publication of numerous supportive letters to the editor from local citizens and others.
The newspaper, however, had some difficulty reporting on the results of the vote on election night, as one of their employees reported on social media...
The Taxpayer Protection Alliance spent approximately $4,200 to encourage a no vote on the referendum. As of this posting Mediacom has not reported any expenditures, although they did send an email to their customers in the final days before the election. Frontier, the incumbent telephone company in Fort Dodge, did not issue any public statements about the vote and even declined an invitation to attend a forum on the topic that was held before the election. There was no organized local vote yes campaign, but positive word of mouth was strong during the weeks before the vote.
Next steps for Fort Dodge could include development of a high-level business model for a city-owned fiber network and an effort to identify possible partners.
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