Jamestown officials’ interest in creating a municipal broadband network has at least one administrator from a private internet service provider questioning the idea.
Over the past year, officials have been discussing the idea of creating a broadband network in the city, gauging the interest of local residents. However, Chris Thomas, Windstream’s vice president of government affairs, questions the initiative because two private internet service providers already provide access to the fastest broadband service available to the vast majority of the city’s residents.
“We already offer a 1 gigabit service”, he said. “We will soon be launching a 2 gigabit service.”
According to Thomas, in his experience, municipalities that have created their own municipal broadband are usually remote rural areas where there is little or no broadband service available. This is not the case in Jamestown.
“There is already competition and choices” he said. “It’s unusual for a city to pursue its own network when you already have two providers in the city offering 1 gig service.”
Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist said that while city officials were analyzing the possibility of building its own broadband network, they found residents were paying $75 to $100 a month for 100 megabits of service. He said a feasibility report shows that if the city created its own broadband network, the city might be able to reduce the cost of service to $30 per month for 1 gigabit of service.
“Being able to provide internet as a public service is a direction the city should consider given our unique position as a public service provider,” Sundquist said, referring to the five divisions of the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities. “We can do the same things that private entities can do, but we just won’t get big payouts to shareholders. The profits will return to the service of the State.
Thomas said there are several examples of cities that have tried to create their own municipal broadband network but have failed. He said that in Provo, Utah, city leaders invested $39 million to create a broadband network, which ultimately failed and was sold to Google for $1. He said the Tacoma, Washington, city lost $7 million trying to create its own network.
“The history of municipal networks is not positive” he said. “Several had to sell their network to a third party. Cities believe they can just run cables and be an (internet service provider).
Thomas said one aspect city officials don’t anticipate is how quickly a broadband network’s infrastructure needs to be maintained or updated.
“In five years, they are going to have to make infrastructure upgrades,” he said. “They already have bridges and roads that they need to maintain and upgrade. The money they spend on the network, to build it and upgrade it, takes money out of their budget for other needs. »
Sundquist said that if city officials can use American Rescue Plan Act funds to build the broadband network, projections show the city will be able to upgrade fiber infrastructure and maintain in the future thanks to the income generated.
“Projections from the feasibility study show that in about four years, the service will bring in enough money to cover other infrastructure upgrades and generate profits for the city,” he added. he said. “We’re going to take the profits we make and put them into infrastructure.”
Sundquist said city officials are now preparing to release the feasibility study. A public meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. in the fireplace room of the James Prendergast Library, located at 509 Cherry Street, to discuss the report’s findings.
“I am delighted to show the public our broadband feasibility study,” he said. “The potential of municipally owned broadband infrastructure is key to bridging the digital divide and attracting investment. This study charts a bold course and makes affordable high-speed internet for all Jamestown residents that much closer to reality.
Following the release of the feasibility study, Sundquist said city officials will create a broadband commission to make a recommendation on whether the city should move forward with the creation of its own municipal fiber network.
“There is broad support at the state and federal levels for this program,” he said. “People are watching to see what Jamestown can do.”