Small Idaho city added fiber as municipal utility
In much the same way that economic development and prosperity followed the availability of electricity in the 20th Century, development today is correlated to the availability of broadband
Broadband, also referred to as high-speed Internet, is telecommunications that provide a variety of channels of data over a single communication medium. And the City of Andalusia’s leaders are considering adding broadband to the utilities offered by the municipality.
“I am of the opinion it may be on our shoulders to see that the infrastructure is in place,” Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson told council members Tuesday night. The mayor made his comments before having council members review a 19-minute video chronicling the efforts of Ammon, Idaho, to do just that.
The city of more than 15,000 people “is taking its destiny in its own hands,” the mayor said. The city installed broadband infrastructure, and sold its excess capacity. It has built its network slowly, and has no debt associated with the infrastructure.
Ammon is using a Local Improvement District (LID) approach to connect premises to the infrastructure. The city determines the boundaries of where the project will occur and property owners have the opportunity at the beginning of the process to pay for connecting to the network by attaching the cost over 20 years to their property. If property owners don’t take advantage of the opportunity during this window of time and decide later to connect, they must pay the estimated $3,000 – $5,000 out of pocket.
In the video viewed by the council and available online, Ammon’s Bruce Patterson, technology director, explained that the network enhanced public safety, which is in the middle of the city’s charter, provided more choices for internet for home owners; and enhanced business development.
“This is being replicated all over America,” Johnson said Tuesday. “The video frames up the issues for you. This would be a long, long thing, and I’m not suggesting we do it now. I am suggesting it is something we start thinking about.”
Two weeks ago, the mayor put Mediacom, one of Andalusia’s major internet service providers, on notice, citing complaints from local businesses about broadband service. The city might need to become an Internet provider, the mayor said, for the good of local businesses.
““This city will not grow or attract businesses and industries that we want here unless they can be assured the broadband and television services that are necessary to run a business,” he said. “A lot of businesses, if they don’t have broadband, it shuts their business down. It’s a serious thing.”
Additional information is available at muninetworks.org or nextcenturycities.org.