Municipal broadband internet services proposals are on the rise
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, a seismic shifting of activity went 100% virtual. This included working and educating students online. It also made it clear that the lack of access to high-speed internet service in some parts of the United States of America. This in turn intensified growing pressure on elected officials to do something. As a result, a bipartisan infrastructure bill that Congress sent to the White House in November 2021 includes $65 billion over ten years to finance expansion of broadband. Then, local city governments have determined they’d like to combine some of those funds with local bond issues to provide broadband to residents.
Expert Analysis on City Broadband Efforts from ISEG
One community currently considering undergoing the process of implementing government broadband is Holland, Michigan. Officials representing the city of Holland are advocating for residents to vote to approve a new $24 million initiative to support a municipal broadband service. Critics say the area is already well-served by private providers. Further, the recent track record of similar projects in other nearby Michigan communities have been dismal.
Holland residents will get their chance to decide on the new debt issue at the polls. As a result, there is great interest in the community on the most beneficial way to proceed. On July 26, 2022, Dr. Ted Bolema, Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of Economic Growth (ISEG), was quoted by reporter Andy Balaskovitz in an article titled “Holland voters to decide broadband internet bond proposal” in MiBiz:
However, critics say the proposal is a potential waste of taxpayer dollars on a system that should be built out by private companies.
Ted Bolema, a resident in nearby Park Township who also serves as executive director of the Institute for the Study of Economic Growth at Wichita State University, is among the critics. He pointed to some cities — including Traverse City — that have struggled to gain enough subscribers to support the cost of operating a publicly run system.
“It’s the whole general idea of the government going into business with private competitors who are then having to compete with the government,” said Bolema, who also serves on the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s Board of Scholars. “It’s a dislike for the general approach.”
Bolema also questions whether private service providers would be interested in investing in a city with a publicly run network, and whether the network would be technologically obsolete by the end of the 25-year millage. And if some residents are having trouble affording or accessing services, the city should help these residents access a privately owned provider on a more targeted basis, Bolema argues.
Read the whole article at MiBiz.