Mediacom sues in Iowa over Google Fiber municipal pact

Dec. 10, 2020
Broadband cable MSO Mediacom is suing the City of West Des Moines, IA over its fiber/conduit network development agreement with Google Fiber.
Pixabay / WilliamCho
Justice William Cho 5fd24c6ab0d0c

Specific points in the complaint include the city's entering into a "secretly negotiated, exclusive agreement with Google Fiber for the design and use of a taxpayer funded conduit network."

MCC Iowa LLC, a subsidiary of Mediacom Communications Corporation, today announced it has filed a petition for declaratory judgment and injunction against the City of West Des Moines, Iowa and the West Des Moines City Council.

The petition alleges the West Des Moines City Council improperly used taxpayer-backed financing bonds intended to remedy urban blight and poverty to build a $50 million city-wide conduit network for the exclusive use of one internet service provider. Filed in Iowa District Court for Polk County, the petition outlines seven specific violations of the law and requests West Des Moines suspend activities related to the conduit network. 

Mediacom notes it is not asking for any compensation that would increase costs on the taxpayer. 

“We are simply asking for the West Des Moines City Council to follow the law. The facts are they made a deal out of public view, used a law intended for blighted areas to fund bonds, and took actions that will destroy marketplace competition. All of this raises costs on West Des Moines residents, reduces their choices and wastes taxpayer funds,” said Thomas Larsen, Mediacom Senior Vice President, Government and Public Relations. “We aren’t asking for any special treatment, just a fair and balanced regulatory environment that allows us to expand our network and compete for the business of West Des Moines consumers.” 

Specific points in the complaint against the West Des Moines City Council include: 

  • Entering into a secretly negotiated, exclusive agreement with Google Fiber for the design and use of a taxpayer funded conduit network that the City falsely claimed would be open and accessible to all internet service providers in the City. 
  • Unlawfully declaring the entire City of West Des Moines an “urban renewal area” under the Iowa Urban Renewal Law and classifying the conduit network as an “urban renewal project.”
  • Using the Urban Renewal Law to authorize the issuance of $42.8 million in taxpayer-backed bonds with minimal oversight and input from voters.
  • Utilizing city resources to undertake a massive marketing campaign encouraging residents to connect to the conduit network and use Google Fiber’s services while falsely promising residents will have a choice of providers.
  • Failing to solicit competitive bids for the parts of the construction process that Google Fiber is performing, as required by Iowa law.
  • When the City Council approved the agreement with Google Fiber, Google’s primary statewide lobbyist was a member of the West Des Moines City Council.

Mediacom notes it has provided broadband internet service in West Des Moines for two decades, investing tens of millions of dollars in developing, maintaining, and upgrading its internet infrastructure in the city. Mediacom employs 400 people in West Des Moines and pays approximately $275,000 per year in franchise fees to the city.

The company is the 5th largest cable operator in the United States and a leading gigabit broadband provider to smaller markets primarily in the Midwest and Southeast. Through its fiber-rich network, Mediacom provides high-speed data, video and phone services to over 1.4 million households and businesses across 22 states.

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