By: Kieren McCarthy of The Register
Cable biz Fidelity Communications has been forced to admit it was behind an astroturfing campaign against a city-run fiber network in America’s Midwest.
The campaign, titled Stop City-Funded Internet, started last month with a website and accompanying social media handles, and has been a persistent critic of efforts by West Plains, Missouri, to expand its homegrown broadband network to include more businesses and even residential customers.
Who exactly is behind the campaign has been the subject of intense interest with the campaign’s main website revealing only that it was funded by “a collection of fiscally conservative Missourians.”
However one enterprising local – videographer Isaac Protiva – was able to uncover the truth: cable company Fidelity Communications, which offers internet access in five states including Missouri, and boasts 115,000 customers. The ISP had paid a marketing outfit based in Arizona to carry out the campaign.
How did he figure it out? The marketing company screwed up when it named materials on stopcityfundedinternet.com. Specifically, two images on the site were spotted revealing Fidelity as a client. Incredibly, one was the site’s main header image, called Fidelity_SCFI_Website_V2.jpg. The second image was on a privacy page, and was hosted on a server called fidelity.dmwebtest.com. Talk about a smoking gun.
The server domain revealed the company behind the campaign was DM Web Dev Group, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, and owned by marketing veterans Martin Lakin and David Ammerman.