Iowa’s cable T.V. industry has filed a lawsuit to challenge the way the U-S-D-A is handing out loans for projects that extend broadband service to rural areas where high-speed Internet access does not exist. Mediacom, the state’s predominant cable company, and the Iowa Cable and Telecommunications Association filed the suit, charging some of the federal grants are going to communities where high-speed access is already available.
Tom Graves is executive vice president of the Iowa Cable and Telecommunications Association. “What we’re really seeking is to have the U.S. Department of Agriculture authorize and administer this program the way it was intended,” Graves says. “This program was intended to ensure that unserved and underserved areas got broadband with federal money.”
Graves says the federal money’s going to areas where there’s already competitors providing broadband services. Graves singles out a federal loan to LISCO, a company in Fairfield that’s providing high-speed access. Graves says the loan just creates “another competitor in the market” because Fairfield residents already had two outlets selling high-speed Internet access — Mediacom and Iowa Telecom.
The cable companies argue the federal loans are being used by new firms trying to enter the cable businesses. “If you take the intention of the congress when it acted and you take the actual allegations made in the reports made by the companies that applied for the loans, they’re not accurate,” Graves says. “Specifically in Fairfield we believe there were some things said in the that weren’t accurate about the services we provide there.”
The cable companies have hired former Iowa Supreme Court Justice and 1998 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark McCormick to press their lawsuit. The LISCO office in Fairfield was closed for the day when Radio Iowa learned of the lawsuit. A spokesperson for the U-S-D-A was not immediately available.