consultants are sandburs

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Municipal broadband vs. municipal real estate development. Which is more like a public good, like the town road grid?

First, it is noteworthy that there is lobbying opposition by entrenched profit seeking private sector interests against municipal broadband, evidenced by such opposition gaining influence in Congress, this Ars Technica item.

Look at that and Ramsey Town Center and Ecuador's national tech-city dream, Seattle Times carrying this report on Ecuador. If some of the analysis in the Ecuador dream town tech plan has the taste and smell of Town Center "have a dream" thinking, back then, it is because pushing on a rope does not work, many can foresee this, and real advances require realistic context for success.

Moreover, getting back to the headline, real estate development has traditionally been the domain of profit seeking private sector entities and persons [real and corporate]. That towns compete with one another to subsidize it is a flaw rather than a feature, but while subsidy is bad enough the Matt Look crowd's buy it and they will come Town Center thing by now is discredited. They did not come, and burger-fries short sightedness is not what "the dream" back then envisioned. Nor is it what we should fall back to now, in place of a proper degree of patience.

Next, broadband. Is it being overhyped? Is it the answer to long commutes and costly highway projects, once work norms are changed and telecommuting grows in acceptance? Is it essential, as with town roads and electricity distribution? Or puffery, and a leisure thing, mainly? Will it leave a more-than-adequate highway system, for the purpose of moving goods by truck, if rush hour misery could somehow be abated?

And, should a strong positioning in broadband growth and low-cost availability be a Ramsey town goal?

These are questions council candidates and candidates for our state legislature should consider, and for which we may hope they articulate views in some public manner for voters to judge.

It seems, however, the question is best posed in Minnesota at the state legislative level, since a mood comparable to that of the Tennessee lady noted in the linked item in the opening paragraph would moot municipal decision making were that mood to grow legs in our legislature. It seems with a November election, we should ask.

Indeed, rural Minnesota got a broadband bonanza last session; and are the rest of us not as deserving? Those of us now commercially served, but underserved in comparison to what internet speeds are feasible? That seems an easier question than the others. The rural folk got pork, and we urban/suburban dwellers deserve it as much.

Simple? Not politically where commercial suppliers like their cushy cash flows, and have voices that can lobby loud enough to be heard, and to drown out voices of simple, ordinary citizens with a view.

A few links: here, here, the Blandin Foundation here (with this map), here, and here; the latter item stating:

The new legislation requires communities to come up with at least a 50 percent match to get any money. That could come from public sources, telecommunications or other private companies, cooperatives or combinations of those organizations. The maximum grant will be $5 million, Schmit said. The money has to go to areas that don’t meet the state speed goals of 10 megabits per second download and 5 megabits per second upload, and the top priority will go to areas that have far slower speeds.

The Office of Broadband Development in the Department of Employment and Economic Development will administer the grants.

About three-quarters of Minnesota households have access to the Internet at speeds the state considers adequate. To make that service available to everyone would cost as much as $3.2 billion, the governor’s task force on broadband estimated earlier this year.

Gov. Dayton lauded the legislation, saying it is important for economic growth. Schmit said he “absolutely” would push for more broadband infrastructure money next year.

Back to the opening paragraph's linked news; not all elected officials in DC are in cahoots with the profiteers; i.e., our luck with Franken and Klobuchar, this link. Another Blandin Foundation link, here.

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