On Monday, February 22nd at 5 p.m., a public discussion of the City’s plan for Municipal Fiber will be held at City Hall. Gary Evans from Hiawatha Broadband will be making a presentation and fielding questions.
Maybe we’ll get to hear what Mr. Evan’s thoughts are as to whether the City should have a Plan B ready in case stimulus funds are not awarded; and what the City should be doing now assuming approval of stimulus funds, which presently would be by September 30th or sooner.
If Fiber is so critical to economic development in Red Wing, then why aren’t we moving past the discussion stage? There seems to be a complacency that is incongruent with the stated need. So, where is the leadership going to come from? The City, Port, Fiber Task Force, or somewhere else? By the way, no funds were budgeted by the City for 2010 the fiber initiative. Does this mean nothing even begins, like planning, until 2011?
From the discussions at the Blue Ribbon Panel last week, it appears that the plan is to have Hiawatha own the internet telephone services, thus avoiding a referendum requiring 65% voter approval on that issue. Then, the City would issue revenue bonds and avoid any voter referendum whatsoever on the fiber initiative. Referendum or not, the City must make its case to the citizens.
As fiber to the home was originally discussed in the Fiber Feasibility Study, this is a $25,000,000 capital improvement plan. Maybe the largest plan in the City’s history. We don’t yet know the cost if the City goes ahead with a plan that does not include residential services. The current plan being considered, in the event stimulus funds are not approved, is to build out fiber without residential services. Either way, the public deserves, requires, answers.
Some have suggested that I am against Fiber, maybe me even being some sort of Luddite. Far from it. Maybe that’s because I don’t subscribe to the “build it and they will come mantra” when it comes to Fiber.
I see tremendous opportunities for the City to attract business. Red Wing in nearly unmatched in Minnesota in terms of quality of life, opportunity, proximity to the Twin Cities, and major universities. We live in exciting times. But we have to do this right when it comes to Fiber, regardless of stimulus money. If not, it might be another 5-10 years before we get another chance.
Let’s have a robust debate on Fiber.
BTW, the blog had 194 hits after posting the audio to the Blue Ribbon Panel’s last meeting. People are beginning to pay attention.