Heartland Institute Posts Bizarre Account of Subcommittee Events

This is just… I don't know. Go read the Heartland Institute's latest assault on municipal fiber projects to see for yourself. As someone who was at the same meeting that Mr. Titch attended, I find myself wondering how the two of us walked away with such different versions of the same story. It's time to set the record straight since truth is not on Mr. Titch's side.

The core of this latest tripe is centered on UTOPIA's buildout strategy. While it's true that questions came up about "green fields" and construction in non-pledging cities, both issues were resolved and addressed by the end of the meeting to the satisfaction of the committee members. Titch characterizes it as an unresolved issue and uses only half of the story to indirectly accuse UTOPIA of doing things that they testified before the committee that they were not doing.

Here are the facts. Construction in newer sub-developments has been at the insistence of builders and entirely paid for by those builders. In other words, zero tax dollars went into the construction and there is no debt service on that portion of the network. Isn't that a Good Thing™? UTOPIA's commitment to pledging cities is to not use tax-backed bond money to build outside of pledging cities and they have done just that. Far from Titch's wildly inaccurate assertions, UTOPIA has been a model of transparency and openness and has followed its commitments to cities to the letter.

The issue of universal access for non-pledging cities was also resolved during the meeting. Titch again twists the words of Sen. Stephenson to insinuate that UTOPIA would be abandoning its mission for universal access. This is patently false and was addressed during the committee meeting. UTOPIA remains committed to rolling out service to every available home and business in all member cities starting with pledging members first and moving into non-pledging cities as funding permits. As opposed to proving any evidence of these wild claims, Mr. Titch seems to think that just making the statement and sticking to it somehow makes it true. Sorry, Steve-O, truth doesn't work that way.

Then we have the twisting of what service levels telcos can provide. UTOPIA mentioned in passing that the gigabit connections being offered to schools and hospitals could be provided by telcos. What got left out of Titch's version of events is that the gigabit for a school costs several hundred a month from UTOPIA and hundreds of thousands a month from a telco. Is anyone else noticing the pattern of selective omissions in this work? Either Titch is grossly incompetent or has chosen to lie the best way he can.

I can't yet comment on the RUS money because I don't have enough details yet. I don't know if it was a loan or a grant and I don't know if the RUS money was in lieu of or in addition to money already bonded for. I'm guessing that the numbers play out in UTOPIA's favor, but I won't know for sure without some answers from them. Watch this posts for some updates within the next few days.

Here's some free advice for The Heartland Institute. If you're going to hire a bunch of policy hacks that can be easily debunked by a blogger using public records, you should seriously re-evaluate your hiring practices. 'Cause dang. If you have to lie and distort to make your case, I'm guessing it's not all that strong.

UPDATE: Word from UTOPIA is that the RUS money is a loan. From the looks of the program, it's probably at a much lower rate than the bonds. This money is loaned against future revenues instead of being tax-backed like the bonds. There's no risk to the cities, the feds think UTOPIA will be paying them back and they're saving some money on interest. Again, this is a series of smart moves designed to make the project less risky and less expensive. How on earth can they be catching criticism for that?

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9 Responses to Heartland Institute Posts Bizarre Account of Subcommittee Events

  1. Bob Hansen says:

    I follow your blog because I’m interested in the UTOPIA model and want to see if it has a viable business model that can grow to provide service across the country.

    In a case like this, where you’re debunking false information, can you link to the minutes of the meeting? I’m curious exactly what the testimony was about universal access and references for the cost of GigE access (from UTOPIA if not the telcos). Not that it in any way robs your post, but for those who are googling around for those issues, providing references that _they_ can follow adds substantial weight.

  2. Jesse says:

    You can grab both the meetings and the audio for the September 6 meeting from the Subcommittee homepage. Audio for the September 26 meeting is also up, but minutes have not yet made their way onto the page for that one. I’d recommend the audio anyway since the minutes don’t provide much in the way of details.

  3. Teletruth News Analysis: Heartland Stink Tank attacks Utopia.

    Heartland institute just released yet another telco-funded report in an attempt to harm municipalities from upgrading their own territories. Heartland is only one of many non-profit-stink tanks who should not be taken as authentic research. They are part of the pay-to-say-anything-for-their-clients cabal and should lose their non-profit status. http://www.freeutopia.org/2007/10/15/heartland-institute-posts-bizarre-account-of-subcommittee-events/

    Here’s 16 Stink Tanks and AT&T and Verizon funded experts: http://newmillenniumresearch.org/experts/

    · American Enterprise Institute

    ·Brookings Institute


    ·The Analysis Group

    Beacon Hill Institute
    · Cato Institute

    Competitive Enterprise Institute
    ·Criterion Economics

    ·The Heartland Institute

    ·The Heritage Foundation.

    ·Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI),

    ·Manhattan Institute for Policy Research

    Pacific Research Institute
    ·Progress & Freedom Foundation

    · Progressive Policy Institute

    ·TeleNomic Research

    · U.S. Internet Industry Association

    More about Stink Tanks: http://www.teletruth.org/StinkTanks.htm

  4. Adam says:

    “How on earth can they be catching criticism for that?”

    Because the group doing the criticizing “Heartland” is a paid mouthpiece for the telecom industry that obscures their funding.

    Heartland also works for the Tobacco industry and claims that cancer/smoking links are “junk science,” if that gives you any idea of the kind of ethical folks you’re dealing with…

  5. W says:

    Not only is Titch falsely representing this session, it appears he’s refusing to comment on the following session where his statements were absolutely shredded by knowledgeable insiders.

    Simply put, he has no argument left. These hearings have proved that UTOPIA is working as predicted and is providing a responsible, sensible benefit to participating cities. Mr Titch and those UTOPIA opponents that pay him were either wrong, or have been exposed as being tools of the incumbent monopolies that view UTOPIA as a threat rather than an opportunity.

  6. Jesse says:

    Once I found out about the “pay-for-play” writing that Heartland engages in, I knew it wouldn’t be hard to prove him a hack. I made sure to e-mail Titch’s latest to the members of the committee. So far, two members have thanked me for sending it along.

    Hear that, telcos? We’re watching you pretty darn closely.

  7. Brad says:

    Wow how obvious can it be that Heartland is a pawn? How widely believed/read is that junk do you think?

  8. davin says:

    So far I have not found too many sources of news (about utopia and any other thing) that are willing to provide proper facts. It seems more and more news outlets (all types) are biased in providing information to their viewers. If not for the blogger like you Jesse that report accurately and link to facts & full source disclosure to help his reader, majority of people would still remain in dark about the abuses of these monopoly.

    I am waiting here in west valley for utopia access along with several of my neighborers and wondering if and when will Utopia finish my neighborhood considering I am next a school (Granger) it should have been done by now. These annoying delays being caused by these monopolistic, greedy, corrupt, biased and stupid organization/companies is killing me a little every day.

  9. Jesse says:

    Brad: Sadly, believed enough to fly Titch in for some legislative testimony. It’s a good thing they’re sloppy enough to be thoroughly discredited.

    Davin: The good news is that per UTOPIA’s remarks from the Sept 26 subcommittee meeting, the build-out in pledging cities should be completed by mid-2008. (This, unfortunately, does not include apartment and condo complexes still under contract for services from either Qwest or Comcast.) The Qwest lawsuit, delays in the RUS application and some illegal obstruction in getting pole access are what held up the process for so long. I know it’s pretty frustrating to have construction on hold, but it’s so going to be worth it.

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