Aug 18, 2021 - News
West Des Moines' fiber-optic fight
Illustration of the Google "G" logo turning into a stop sign.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Cable television provider Mediacom requested in court last week a halt in construction of an underground conduit network bringing high-speed internet to West Des Moines because of the size of the project's infrastructure.

Driving the news: Mediacom argued that the conduit being used to build the $43 million Google Fiber project is too small for other internet service providers and won't work with some of their technology.

Why it matters: Both West Des Moines and Mediacom argue that taxpayers could get fleeced, albeit for different reasons.

  • Failure to get the project right — or needlessly halting construction — could delay high-speed services and cost more money, they argue.

Catch up fast: West Des Moines last year agreed to invest up to $50 million in taxpayer money to build and maintain the network.

  • Through a partnership, Google Fiber will pay the city for access to the conduit. ($2.25 a month for each household connection, which the city anticipates is a minimum of $4.5 million over 20 years.)
  • Mediacom filed a lawsuit in January alleging the agreement with Google violates Iowa's urban renewal law and creates a de facto city utility that cannot be implemented without voter approval.

The other side: West Des Moines argued in court documents that the system is more than adequate and Mediacom's efforts are solely to prevent a competitor from entering the market. Other city points:

  • WDM took the lead to build the conduit system because a piecemeal approach via private companies was failing to provide the community with "digital equity."
  • Google will occupy 20% of the available conduit space and the system can be licensed to multiple broadband providers.
  • Delaying the project would needlessly put an additional financial burden on taxpayers.

What's next: A ruling on Mediacom's request for a court order to halt construction is expected in the coming weeks.

avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.

More Des Moines stories

No stories could be found

Des Moinespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.