Becker Protests City Cable's Decision To Deny semo.net Any New Internet Customers
On May 14th, I was sent a letter from Bill Bach, General Manager of City Cable. The letter stated that my company was exceeding the 8meg bandwidth allotment per the 2001 city ordinance. For that reason, semo.net could not sign up new customers until a new rate was negotiated. Within hours I made a reasonable and fair offer for the overage so that our company could continue doing business and simultaneously work with the City Council to update the old ordinance. My offer was ignored.
[Side note: this issue is not associated with the Cable Internet pricing ordinance change made earlier this year]
After speaking individually with City Council members, Municipal Utilities Advisory Board members, the City Manager, City Mayor and Bill Bach; I was given no alternative but to wait several weeks until the June 7th Municipal Utilities Advisory Board meeting.
I appeared before the Advisory Board on Monday, June 7th. The Board refused to directly address my issue citing a possible bond compliance problem that has arisen completely separate from this.
They justify their inaction by claiming that the revenue from ISP partners affects the potential bond compliance. In contradiction to this logic, however, they continue to allow the other partner ISPs to sign up new customers.
At the meeting I offered compensation for the overage; I requested a limited reprieve of the “no signups restriction” to allow them to resolve the bond compliance issue; I requested the board make a motion and vote as to whether Mr. Bach should remove the “current restriction” until the bond compliance issue was resolved; all requests were denied and no motion was made.
The only offer extended to my company was the ability to place a letter at the City Cable desk explaining why customers could not sign up for semo.net’s Internet service.
Below is the prepared statement I read during the City Council meeting on Monday June 7th during the citizen’s input portion of the meeting.
It is my hope that the city will work to remove this restriction while they work out the bond compliance issue and then all parties can work with the City Council to update the ordinance.
JUNE 7th, 2010
My name is Brian Becker, my company Poplar Bluff Internet, Inc., d.b.a semo.net is located here in the city of Poplar Bluff.
In 2001 we worked with the City to develop an open access agreement to allow my company and other ISPs in our area to utilize the City’s infrastructure to provide Internet service to our customers. Once that agreement was reached we began moving our customers over to this network.
The original ordinance in 2001 created limits that, at the time, were sufficient for a community moving from dialup to broadband: That limit was 8 meg and the then-current capacity of the network was 22 meg.
In 2006, our growth of customers pushed us above the 8 meg limit of the original ordinance, simultaneously the city increased the capacity of the network from 22 meg to its current 120 meg capacity. Additional changes could bring the network capacity to over 500 meg.
We notified the city that we were over the 8 meg in February of 2006.
At the same time, City Cable notified ISPs that a 3 meg Internet account was available because the capacity of the network had been increased. Again, this was one more indication from the City that the 8 meg limit was no longer in play. Keep in mind that only three customers using 3 meg service would put you over the 8 meg limit.
My company proceeded under good faith for the past four years. Since 2001, my company has paid City Cable $1,100,000 for use of this network.
In April, we started a campaign to educate people that we were a viable option on the City Cable network. Our campaign stated a simple fact “It’s easy to switch from MyCityCable.” I received a phone call from Dave Presley who was very upset with that advertisement and stated, and I quote, “I don’t know what we are gonna do, but we are gonna do something.”
Less than a month later, Bill Bach sent my company a letter stating we could no longer sign up new customers because we were over the original ordinance’s limit of 8 meg. As the letter suggested and within a few hours, I made an offer to cover the overage they were suggesting I was responsible for. But that offer has been ignored and we cannot sign up new customers.
The current capacity is 120 meg and a simple formula shows that the limit should be raised to 43 meg.
Our typical peak is 40 to 43 meg, and we average 25 meg throughout the day.
Mr. Bach has mentioned to me he was frustrated with our marketing campaign.
I have been told that Mr Bach also showed board members a copy of our Wal-Mart billboard ad campaign, as though, our campaign should justify this enforcement of an outdated ordinance.
We can only view that City Cable and Mr Bach have become retaliatory and torturous in nature toward my business.
I spoke with the Utilities Board today and because of new Bond compliance issue that has arisen completely separate from this present issue, the Board refused to directly address my issue.
In other words, City Cable is delaying my ability to resolve this issue.
I do not know what power the City Council has over Mr. Bach and the Advisory Board, but in today’s MU Advisory Board meeting, I was unable to convince them to remove this arbitrary restriction.
I ask that the Council press Mr. Bach to remove his currently imposed and arbitrary restriction until a time that the city ordinance can be adjusted to adequate bandwidth levels for ISPs like mine.
One last note, Charter Communications offers [a single user] a 25 meg connections for $54. My company is paying almost $20,000 per month and being told to limit [all of our 930 customers to a fraction of that].
Disturbing is the right word for this. Bach’s actions are disgusting, immoral and illegal. He and his league of henchman are their own form of mafia. He’s also ignorant to the fact that the public easily sees through his thin veneer and his heavy handed control of city politicians. It’s time for the school yard bully to get a punch in the nose. Bach needs to be sued for the truth to come to light. Next, determine who his henchmen are in city government and eliminate them by popular vote. Its time for that campaign to start. Power to the people.
This is ridiculous…I called to up my internet speed a few days ago and the city put a ban on that as well, and I have been a happy customer for 6 years. This political issue is not fair to semo.net’s customers and certainly not to Mr. Becker. I shouldn’t have to switch my service because someone got their feelings hurt from an advertisement…get over it man, it’s just business. If he gets more business than you, guess what, that’s the point!
Sue them. They are not treating tax payers equally. How can they tell you not to have new customers when they allow another to do so. What is this country coming too?
Sounds might suspicious. Are you sure it is not political? I ‘m with Kim. We live in the boonies and are very greatful to have Semo.Net service and they have always been prompt in responding to questions/problems we have. Sure we’d like high speed but Gov Nixon chose to take some of the stimulus $ supposed to be for broadband promised by the prez and use it for other purposes. We do not have at&t but Windstream and they do not offer broadband in our area yet, if ever! We are for sure “the forgotten man” in America. Small businesses like semo.net should not be treated like the enemy, the provide a very valuable service and are deeply appreciated. Brian, you do not stand alone!!
quote ( Is PB really a dog-eat-dog city? Does the City, Chamber, and Councils really think it is appropriate to hurt the livelyhood of a small business “because they can”. This type of action takes me back to grade school – some bullies never grow up they only grow into bigger bullies and those around them are many times too afraid to speak up. The more I think about the ethics of this situation the sadder it makes me. Definitely a “Good old boy” problem or should we say a mob has entered the city infrastructure and we need to do some house cleaning so people can have a voice and be treated with respect.) you hit the nail on the head greed he who has the biggest toys wins——–BIG GOVERNMENT
I fully support semo.net on this issue. Our city should support the development of local businesses, not hinder it. Who knows what companies might be considering a move to Poplar Bluff and are now hesitant to do so! I would like to see the Chamber of Commerce help to resolve this situation. We need to show that our town is supportive of small businesses, is capable of adapting to changes in technology, and flexible when it comes to working with business owners.
Having been a small business owner in PB and having used SEMO.net since 93 or 94 this is very disturbing. Where was the city back in the early 90’s to offer the area internet or cable TV services? The american dream has been built on ideals and dreams and lots of hours and investment from small business owners that spend years of their life trying to establish – the dream of having a successful business. When something happens like this it very much speaks to the spirit or attitude of a community. Is PB really a dog-eat-dog city? Does the City, Chamber, and Councils really think it is appropriate to hurt the livelyhood of a small business “because they can”. This type of action takes me back to grade school – some bullies never grow up they only grow into bigger bullies and those around them are many times too afraid to speak up. The more I think about the ethics of this situation the sadder it makes me. Definitely a “Good old boy” problem or should we say a mob has entered the city infrastructure and we need to do some house cleaning so people can have a voice and be treated with respect. I just wonder how many hours Brian and his family have given to the city of PB? How many hours has he been away from his family to keep abreast of the technology needed to be as cutting edge as possible? That old thing about Do unto others as you would have them do unto you really makes sense. How long will it take a small business to recoup from such an unnecessary action? How many employees will it effect? It seems simple – there was a problem, a remedy has been offered, but someone doesn’t even want to seek for a solution. They must be very insecure and still be living with a bully mentality. Brian, keep the right spirit and pray. Give it to God and wait for the answer. Whether it be Be Still or Pick up the jaw bone and start swinging. This kind of makes me think back to the BRC and when Calvin Rutledge was working so hard to make things work. City politics……why can’t we assume honorable intentions and just be truthful?
Generally there are two sides to every story and based on what I see here it is a miss use of power. I have been a Semo.net user for the past 4 years and am happy with the service. I live in the county and am a wireless customer. You have my support in your fight against an outdated limit.
I’m a online gamer I signed up for city cable broadband back when it first started. Hated it, they would put speed limits on ports that some games used. half the time I would have to use dial up it was faster. Then I found Semo.net. speeds are great all ways there when I need them. If I need power or water I call city if I need the net i call the net guys at Semo. look at it like this would you go to KFC and ask for a hot dog? No KFC Makes chicken not hot dogs. So why go to the power Co. for broadband? Keep up the great work Brian And keep fighting let us know how we can help. Like who do we start calling and sending mail to bullies should never be left alone.
while i have no dog in this fight basically what is happening is politics—semo you ticked the city off now the have you right where they want. heck if given then chance you would put the screws to the city the way they did you. all politics pay the piper you will get what you want!
Sounds like you are a problem to the “Good Ole Boy” system. I signed up in 1999 and have been a happy semo.net customer every since. It’s a shame that legit businesses that offer quality service are stonewalled. Seek quality legal counsel or start a petition. Best of luck in this unfortunate situation.
How could City Cable sue you for advertising. Companies do this everyday trying to increase their business by taking other peoples customer. This is a strange concept called free enterprise and freedom of speech, which apparently are not valid in P.B. Plus why is it every town around here has higher speed internet than backwarsd P.B.
You think you have it bad? Try living out here where the real boonies start!
I have lived out here for 21 years and my fastest connection speed is 26.400, that is 70s speeds. I would just about give anything for DSL but, I live to far out of town! I agree with jerry, we should have already had fiber optics at least 5 years ago, so whats taking so long????
[editor’s note: Regarding 70s speeds–modem speed was maxed out at 9600 until 1982 when that barrier was finally broken and 19.2k speeds were reached. 1995 the standard was finally pushed to the speeds you are currently getting.]
For the past ten years or more we have all been paying fees on top of fees to our communications networks that were supposed to be earmarked for infrastructure updates. However, in most areas, these communications companies have been padding their pockets and forgetting that the customer should be their motivation. Apparently City Cable has been doing the same thing that other communications companies have been. From my own research I show that the United States is approximately 5 – 15 years behind the rest of the industrialized world. We should have high-speed internet (at the very least DSL and Cable while at best we should have Fiber optic Internet) throughout the entire country. Instead we struggle to make sure that we have dial-up Internet available to the most rural of persons. My only question is this, why hasn’t City Cable cracked down on any other Internet Service Providers who resale Cable Internet through City Cable? Could it be because only semo.net actually set up an advertisement campaign that actually worked? Could it be that City Cable is trying to push out competition by pushing the fact that they are monopolizing the Cable Internet in Poplar Bluff? Just a thought for those who think they have the answers to the issue.
[This will be Jessie’s last post since he continues to violate semo.net’s policy of using a valid email address when posting comments.]
First of all, semo.net pays ATT to use their network, just like they do citycable. Ill sit on hold for 2min. at 3am when im having problems insted of waiting all weekend or night for semo.net to open. No one is questioning who payed for the infrastructure or if small providers have rights to use it with just compensation. By using mycitycable, im still supporting the local economy as well as national economy, just like i would be if i used semo.net. No, i dont work for any corporation, and if semo.net sells a service that is directly provided by another company, thats a “middle man”. Now if i subscribed to their dialup service, and it uses semo.net’s equipment directly, thats not a “middle man” service because they are the main providers.
As a side note to the admin., what does it matter if I dont use a full name or a valid email? Does that make my opinion less valid? Does that mean I dont have freedom of speech? Maby your just mad because you cant track me or find out who i am by my ip address. If you have any questions about my reply to your article, address them directly on here so everyone can see.
There needs to be more people like Brian. He is a hard working small businessman with many good ideas. We all need small business.
I do not agree with Jessie’s statement -here’s why. First off, send your money to ATT. Start feeding their revenue coffers and see how well you service or customer service is. Hope you like sitting on hold with a two second question! We as tax payers and subscribers to teleco helped pay for the infrastructure. Check out the fine print on your ATT bill. Small providers do have a right to use the it with just compensation. Second, supporting small business really helps the economy on more levels. Do you work for a corporation? If not, you should really reevaluate your middleman statement. Trickle down economics is a joke.
[The following comment was posted without a valid email address or full name. Please remember to post a valid email address (which is not shared with the public) in case we have questions about your post:]
In my opinion. It is pointless to go thru a middle man such as yourself anyways. Why would I want you monitoring my internet usage and what I do? The funny thing is, you advertised that “Its easy to switch from Mycitycable” no wonder they are mad. You were driving customers away from them, and it seems to me, probably putting them back on city cable while they (the customer) think its your network. Im surprised they dont sue you over it. I just hope that someone makes it clear that no one even needs to use your services, they can just go directly to the source (mycitycable, at&t, big river tele.) Calling city’s tech support is great too, even though they are not local, they are available 24/7 can your tech support say that? Im sure you will delete this, but I had my say in the matter.