This past summer, consultants hired by Lakeland, Florida, shared their opinion that the community has the necessary components to launch a broadband utility. In a recent opinion piece in The Ledger, city commissioner Justin Toller encourages Lakelanders to let their elected officials know that they want a public vote on the issue.
We’re Paying for it, Regardless
Toller, who has championed the broadband initiative as the chair of the Broadband Task Force, appeals to the public’s sense of value. He notes that, while everyone in the community has contributed financially to developing the existing 330-mile fiber optic network, only a small number of commercial entities use the infrastructure along with local schools, libraries, and public safety facilities. The city collects around $4 million per year in dark fiber leases.
By investing in the final connection, we can reduce customer costs in the long-term, because you are the owners and not just the users. To private providers, you are a source of profit; to our city, you are an investment in our shared community. That investment will create innovation, economic development, job growth, and a higher quality of life, while also providing a savings on your Internet bill.
Repeating the Past
Toller also notes how Lakeland decided as a community in the past to invest in the electric utility, the hospital, and the roads. He sees a similar path with fiber.
Today, the roadways of the future are not concrete; they are fiber. Lakeland has invested millions of dollars in building the current fiber network, and now it’s time to make the final investment to connect all Lakelanders. Keep in mind, whether we hook-up that fiber to every home and business or not, we all continue to pay for the existing infrastructure.
The city has done its due diligence by having a feasibility study. There have been numerous community meetings, a survey, a forum, and hundreds of public comments. In response, private providers have done what they do best, raise prices.
Many of us are still using decades-old infrastructure, and we’ve grown accustomed to the high prices and lousy service. Because of the investment that has already been made, we have been granted a chance by our past leaders to move forward and allow this infrastructure to benefit all Lakelanders.
The choice is clear. Lakeland will benefit from our current fiber infrastructure and the city of Lakeland has a proven track record it can deliver quality services.
When we grow older and our children and grandchildren ask us how Lakeland prepared for their future, I don’t want us to say we tried to rely on someone else. Lakelanders deserve better than is currently offered.