Smart Community is about many elements, and a discussion around the public’s right to fast, affordable internet is a big part of having informed and engaged citizens. My proposal is that we investigate the benefits (and costs) of running a municipal broadband solution instead of relying solely on private corporations.
Municipal Broadband is a solution used by over 80 communities in Colorado, from urban areas like Ft Collins and Brighton to rural areas like Fountain and El Paso County. Financing can take a variety of forms, but in general terms, they are initially funded with a bond to help with initial capital costs and outlays and are required to be self-sufficient in funding within a set period of years. So, no new taxes are involved, the enterprise would have to be self-sustainable (typically called an enterprise fund). How it operates would be governed by it’s Charter, and I am glad you brought up the Big Brother example because my vision would create the exact opposite. Currently, for-profit companies require you to give up your data and browsing history as part of the Terms of Service for accessing the internet through their portal. IF as a Town we move forward with a municipal Broadband solution I would strongly advocate for the following elements to be included with the terms of service and EULA.
All Internet traffic is to be treated as equal. (Typically, there is a caveat for emergency services)
All data within the Town of Castle Rock Municipal Broadband Solution (ToCRMBS…I think we need a marketing person to help with this acronym) is considered private and owned solely by the end user. From a technical perspective, we turn the entire enterprise into a giant VPN to protect our resident’s security and anonymity.
This is the first step, and assuming it 1) makes sense financially, and 2) moves forward, this then allows the town to supplement services with improved wireless and cell access. As I mentioned in the Mayoral Roundtable on October 18, a possible path to revenue for the Town would be to own and place micro towers on our light poles that can then be used to support our efforts and/or leased to other providers to enhance their coverage. Financially this could be a great way to add another source of diverse income to the town outside of sales tax, and it would be a source that would grow with the town.
Finally, the state has approved over $100 million dollars to help support rural broadband initiatives. While the Town will never qualify as rural, since Castle Rock is the Seat of Douglas County if we design our solution efficiently and with scalability in mind, we could be a value provider to our neighbors. This would allow us to collect user fees from non-residents and would enable us to receive state grants.