Waterloo (IA) conducted a $110,000 broadband study, but city officials refuse to release the details, claiming it could “hurt the city’s ability to compete with Mediacom, a major internet provider.” The study was commissioned in 2019, and completed by Magellan Advisors.
Government Technology reported that, according to City Attorney Chris Wendland, disclosing marketing and pricing strategies for a city-owned utility “would harm the competitive position of the municipal telecommunications utility before it could even get off the ground.”
A complaint was filed by The Courier with the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB), encouraging the release of the study; however, state code protects “draft” materials. The telecommunications utility board of trustees met privately to review the study and pointed to the Iowa code that allows executive sessions to look over confidential documents, reported Government Technology.
Wendland added that Mediacom is not under a legal obligation to release pricing, cost data, or marketing strategies. “As a non-governmental entity, Mediacom is a profit-seeking business that is permitted to develop its marketing and pricing strategies and related proprietary information behind closed doors,” he wrote.
Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, has a differing opinion regarding the study. He told The Courier that Waterloo residents “are entitled to know what the consultant has said about the viability of such a broadband network.”
The IPIB is slated to review the open records and open meeting law complaint in November. The board will determine whether to take further action regarding Waterloo officials’ decisions around not releasing the broadband study.