The Hard Facts About The Meeting

  • Spectrum held a hyped-up announcement on Friday 11-22-19
  • They promised a 75,000 dollar investment in the LEDC backed Catapult 3.0 building & gig speeds to the building
  • Other than lip service- nothing concrete was planned for the rest of Lakeland

Analysis and Findings

My Thoughts Before the Meeting

I was genuinely excited as I was walking into the Catapult meeting last Friday. I finally thought that Lakeland would get investment from private interests into the infrastructure that delivers Lakeland’s internet. Boy, was I wrong. I found out beforehand that Spectrum and the LEDC were planning to hold an event at the Catapult building to make a huge announcement. That announcement was sorely needed; for seven years, Lakeland has been deliberating the benefits of a broadband network, and Spectrum and other incumbent providers have done very little. Upon hearing about the announcement, I finally thought that was going to change.

What Spectrum Actually Promised: A Breadcrumb

I don’t think I was the only one in shock during the meeting. Many of us expected something from Spectrum. A promise to upgrade our last-mile infrastructure; a real “shovels in the dirt” promise. That ended up being untrue. Like a bad joke without a punchline, many of us at the meeting were left hanging. Instead, after a 30-minute speech about how wonderful Spectrum was, we were quickly forced out of the room so that the higher-ups could have a roundtable conversation with Catapult members. When the dust settled I finally understood the promise. a 75,000 dollar investment into the Catapult incubator. On the surface, I think that’s great. Private investment to help a good cause is always a good thing. But Lakeland needs more, and to the thousands struggling with unreliable signals and high prices, I think we aren’t getting a fair shake.

A Lesson Learned

Steve Scruggs President of the LEDC

I guess I was naive. I thought that LakelandFiberNOW’s efforts were helping to provide a spark to Spectrum for it to invest in the infrastructure that Lakeland sorely needed. Many of us are being served data on copper cabling that is decades old. Spectrum and other ISP’s often don’t admit that the last mile of our internet is mainly being delivered on COAX cable, this cable was designed for TV and other analog signals of yesteryears past. These coax cables are hitting the physical limits that copper can provide and are in need of significant investment to make them more robust. That’s why many of us have unreliable signals, speeds significantly less than advertised, dropouts, and long latencies when using computers and browsing the web. I want to think that Spectrum would love to deliver the advertised speeds that they are offering, but they can’t because this infrastructure is almost aged out. For years, band-aids have been applied to the cabling that provides our internet to keep our cable modem lights blinking and their customers from complaining (too much). But these band-aid solutions are adding up, and the customers at the end of the line are paying the price.

I want to think that Spectrum would love to deliver the advertised speeds that they are offering, but they can’t because this infrastructure is almost aged out.

A Bizarre Press Release

Walking into the meeting on Friday, I assumed that this would be what this “announcement” was about. I thought Spectrum would finally be promising to deliver on the internet that Lakeland deserves. What I got instead was an announcement that felt like a free lunch seminar without the timeshare salesmen. There was so much marketing hype it felt like I was in a bouncy balloon.

First, we had the Spectrum employee who was trying to compare Spectrum’s internet with the wireless standard known as 5G. 5G is entirely unrelated to wired cabling infrastructure. The engineering, the standards, all of it, are entirely unrelated. They were calling their network 10G. That’s just simply false.

Second, Spectrum had prepared a 5-minute stock promo video that spoke in generalities about the benefits of their network, their commitment to their employees, and an impeccable service record to its customers. After speaking with thousands of people during my canvassing efforts, I’ve found that if there is one thing that unites Lakelanders, it’s their near-universal dislike for their internet provider. Even those who are content with Spectrum, many see massive holes in their service, fees, and reliability.

Mayor Mutz Speaking to an Audience Friday

And third, and perhaps the most jaw-dropping, was our Mayor Bill Mutz, a man whom I’ve grown to respect as an upstanding leader in Lakeland, going to bat for this company. The completely out of touch speech Mutz gave on Spectrum’s commitment to Lakeland and his overwhelming support for it left my jaw on the floor. Why would Mutz throw his support behind Spectrum? A company that isn’t even based in Florida, and only fell into becoming the stewards of Lakeland’s internet network from a multi-billion dollar buyout of Bright House?

Why would Mutz throw his support behind Spectrum? A company that isn’t even based in Florida, and only fell into becoming the stewards of Lakeland’s internet network from a multi-billion dollar buyout of Bright House?

And that brings me to my final point. It seems to me that every time our internet infrastructure sells to the next highest bidder -this will be the third time in the last 15 years- that our internet gets slower, our prices get higher, and the support gets worse. Worse still, what happens when Spectrum jumps ship? Will the next company be as committed to Lakeland as the previous one? Lakeland is being held hostage by one provider. We need to bring in another competitor to ensure our prices are kept in check and our connection stays reliable. I’ve held out hope that our current provider would start to see the writing on the wall and fix this mess before we all rebel. I was wrong…

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