From the Blog: Municipal Broadband
My vision for Lakeland includes a strong local economy, smart and sustainable government, and opportunities for our future generations. When it comes to smart government, I always want to make sure that as city leaders we are good stewards of our taxpayer dollars and that any new program, venture or initiative is a good deal for our city and the residents we serve.
Municipal broadband — when a city or local government becomes an internet service provider — is a popular topic right now. The City of Lakeland has worked with consultants for several years to study the possibility of creating a broadband utility and selling high-speed internet service to residents and businesses. While the idea of potentially being able to provide better, faster and cheaper internet service to the community sounds appealing, I have strong reservations about the city getting into the internet business.
At this point, I’m concerned about long-term competition with telecommunications companies as well as changing and emerging technologies that could significantly affect internet service providers over the next 20-30 years. Local governments aren’t designed to go head-to-head with the private sector, especially against tech giants that would be prepared to compete on price.
I understand that some see this as a potential opportunity for economic development and a significant source of new revenue for our city. However, the risks are high and if this venture failed, it would come at a great cost to the city and to Lakeland taxpayers. I favor focusing on the core city services we currently provide while finding ways to encourage the private sector to offer the internet network services we need for the future.
Want to chat more about municipal broadband or another issue in Lakeland? I would love to meet you for coffee — my office is next to Mitchell’s in downtown Lakeland. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.