The City of West Des Moines is moving forward with an internet conduit project that will provide widespread internet access to all residents who want it, despite facing a lawsuit from Mediacom.
The cable and internet provider claims the city is misusing taxpayer money to give Google Fiber exclusive rights to the project. The city first announced the partnership with Google Fiber in the summer of 2020.
Together, they plan to build an underground pipeline that residents can use to access the internet. Providers like Google Fiber and Mediacom would act as tenants, paying the city for access to the pipeline to offer their services to customers.
Thomas Larsen, Senior Vice President of Government and Public Relations for Mediacom, released the following statement:
“The West Des Moines City Council made an exclusive deal with Google behind closed doors, used a law intended to remedy blighted and poverty-stricken areas to fund bonds for the project, and took actions that will destroy marketplace competition all while hurting taxpayers in the process. Mediacom simply wants the City to apply its regulatory authority in a competitively neutral and non-discriminatory manner instead of favoring the interests of Google over all the other internet service providers trying to offer high speed broadband to the residents and businesses of West Des Moines."
Read the full lawsuit filed in Polk County here
The law Mediacom is referring to is called the Urban Renewal Law, which according to Iowa Code does not just apply to removing blight, but can also be applied to infrastructure improvements and residential and commercial development:
"Iowa law allows municipalities to establish urban renewal areas to finance public improvements such as streets, sewers, sidewalks, and other infrastructure related to residential, commercial, or industrial development; to redevelop slum or blighted areas; to fund private economic development; and to finance construction of low and moderate income housing."
West Des Moines' website says they have used this law to start projects like infrastructure improvements around Valley Junction, Jordan Creek Mall and various Microsoft locations.
Mediacom also claims the city is playing favorites and hurting competition through its "exclusive deal with Google."
While West Des Moines has partnered with the Google Fiber to initiate this project, they have said in the past more internet providers will join. At this time, the city hasn't announced any additional providers participating in the pipeline.
The city has filed a motion to dismiss Mediacom's lawsuit and chose not to comment on this story due to the ongoing litigation.
Construction on the pipeline is expected to start by the end of July.