Saturday, February 7, 2015

Time Warner made its case to legislators at luxury resort

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The dining room at the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth
The dining room at the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth
Fed up with slow internet speeds offered by commercial services, some Maine cities and towns are turning to a new way to get high-speed broadband for their residents and businesses: doing it themselves.
Maine ranks near the bottom of all 50 states in internet speeds, which frustrates consumers and also puts a damper on business.
Legislators have submitted multiple bills this session to help municipalities build high-speed broadband networks. One bill’s title gives the flavor of many of them: “An Act To Actually Expand Rural Broadband.”
All that activity poses a threat to the state’s largest internet provider, Time Warner Cable: The more people who use a municipally-sponsored broadband service, the fewer customers available to the company.
Just as the legislative session was starting in January, Time Warner went on the offensive. It invited Maine lawmakers to an overnight “Winter Policy Conference” at a Cape Elizabeth resort, where the company tried to persuade legislators that government owned-broadband was a bad idea. The guests were served steak dinners and some were put up for the night in rooms that retail from $205 to $355 per night.
While lawmakers say they attended the event to become informed, others are not sure that legislators attending such an “educational forum,” as Time Warner called it, is in the public interest. Especially one at a resort described by its owners as designed to “surround you with every creature comfort.”