Municipal Broadband

The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn't think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential. - Steve Balmer

Technology has always been fascinating to me.  I have witnessed the astounding effects of the Internet as it has grown from novelty to the knowledge core of American society.

I believe

  • Internet access is a modern necessity
  • Internet access will be fundamental to a complete education for our children
  • Many small businesses owe their survival to fast, reliable internet
  • Home connectivity is changing how we work, blurring the line between residential and commercial infrastructure

The Rochester City Council discussed and approved accepting Alcatel-Lucent's offer to study the financial feasibility of a municipal broadband network in Rochester.  I think this is an important step in the process to address infrastructure and accessibility concerns within our community.  

My Goals

  • Establish cost estimate for municipal fiber project
  • Gather feedback from the community
  • Position city to take advantage of possible availability of federal funding 

My Concerns

  • Financial burden caused by a fiber utility
  • Priority of a municipal broadband project relative to other community needs
  • Veracity of a report developed by a party with potential financial interest in the project

First, beyond limited City staff involvement, the plan is free.  The report is being compiled by Alcatel-Lucent, a company that provides technology infrastructure for residential, commercial and municipal clients.  Alcatel-Lucent's business is to sell telecommunications equipment.  That should make us cautious but not unreceptive to their expertise. I expect that many skeptical eyes will be focused on this report and I think that is a good thing. I hope that more information will spur a greater understanding of both the needs of our community and costs of new infrastructure.

Second, the plan is about general feasibility, not about the details of implementation.  The intent is to understand the size of financial and technical challenges. This plan is not intended to be blueprint but a high level, technical assessment of if Rochester could and/or should pursue a municipal network.

This study is a reasonable next step to evaluate municipal involvement in broadband.  It is, however, just a step in a process.  I will take a critical look at the result of the study, both in terms of value for the community and financial feasibility.  In the end, the voice of the community has been clear.  The status quo is unacceptable. This process will help us better understand our options and how best to solve this challenge for our community.

I've heard from many of you on this topic, but if you'd like to share your thoughts, please contact me!


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