Friday, June 02, 2006

What's Up With Broadband?

AFCNet -- American Fork's municipal broadband system -- has plenty of proponents, and just as many opponents. For the record, I am one of its proponents. I believe the City's investment has opened the door to competitive information technology offerings by the private sector, and that it should be a prominent part of our economic development package. I give thanks daily for its speed, affordability, and reliability -- all gifts which enable me to accomplish significant amounts of work here at home while my children sleep.

But there is news afoot. Proponents and opponents alike will want to be present at the public hearing on June 13 when the City will ask for public comment on the question of declaring the Broadband system surplus.

How did we come to this point? Like this:

Under the very keen, very diligent care of Councilmember Dale Gunther, the City has been studying all its assets and departments, with the goal of improving revenues and efficiencies to bring long-term improvement to the financial condition of our City.

In that light, AFCNet is seen as a valuable asset. But the system faces one almost insurmountable challenge in that AF City cannot legally be a retail provider of Internet service because of HB149. The City must work through middlemen (the ISP’s). This severely inhibits the City's ability to make the system self-sufficient. At present, the City subsidizes the system.

We are studying several options, all with the goal of making the system profitable. Clearly, this must be done by enhancing the service. Guaranteeing continuous, reliable, affordable coverage for current customers and for new businesses and residences is also a priority.

Options could include sale or lease. Keeping and expanding the system is also an option.

No matter which direction the City takes, please be assured that the City is committed to protecting and enhancing the system’s speed, affordability, and reliability, and to making the system available to all residents and businesses.

That hearing on June 13 is tentatively scheduled for 6:00 p.m. in the Community Room of the public library. But times often change, so keep an eye on the agendas posted at the City's Web site.


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