Village Council— New efforts for broadband
- Published: July 27, 2017
A local group of municipal broadband supporters will continue its effort to bring a fiber optic network to Yellow Springs, following the decision of Village government leaders to not move forward with creating and funding a municipal network.
“We all feel strongly about this, and will continue our efforts,” said Tim Barhorst of Springs-Net in a presentation to Village Council at Council’s July 17 meeting.
Other Springs-Net members are Scott Fife, Thor Sage, Matt Cole and Council liasion Brian Housh.
Reading a written report from Springs-Net, Barhorst acknowledged that “Yellow Springs Village Council and staff think the risk of failure [for the network] is too high. There are concerns around the cost of building a network and the resulting cost of service, and that the network would contribute to the gentrification of the village and higher housing costs.”
Those concerns followed a spring presentation to Council from consultant Andrew Cohill of Design Nine, who was hired by the Village to assess the pros and cons of establishing and funding muncipal broadband. Following a local survey and months of research, Cohill reported to Council that the project looked risky due to significant upfront costs, competition from current Internet providers such as Spectrum and AT&T, and the small size of the village, which works against cost efficiency. He estimated that the network would cost about $4 million to $5 million to create, and while it would provide faster Internet service, the service would not be less expensive than that offered by current providers. The biggest obstacle, he said, would be funding the project.
However, the survey did indicate a robust level of interest for broadband in the village.
The Design Nine report followed the recommendation by Springs-Net, after two years of research, that the Village should create a fiber optic network due to the high level of local interest.
But while Village government is not interested in funding and creating the network, other options for building a fiber optic network do exist, and the group will pursue them, according to Barhorst, who said the preferred option is to form a nonprofit or cooperative.
The nonprofit would have three main tasks, including:
1) providing training and mentoring to villagers to prepare them for jobs in the technology field;
2) providing assistance for local small businesses to help improve their use of broadband and information technology;
3) helping Yellow Springs seniors and families with school-age children get a computer and provide basic training in using it.
The nonprofit would have minimal staff and rely mainly on volunteers, according to the Springs-Net document, which states that “It would facilitate networking and provide a neutral and trusted place to get broadband and technology assistance.” The nonprofit would also offer reduced rates for low-income households.
Other options for establishing and funding a network include public/private partnerships, cooperative partnerships with regional partners, and an incremental approach that would build out small sections of the village at a time.
Barhorst also suggested that Council examine the Design Nine final recommendation with an eye toward places where estimated costs appear to be inappropriately high.
Overall, according to the report, “Our goal is a network that is inclusive, affordable for all and one that encourages the kind of business growth and development that is in alignment with the values of Yellow Springs. If appropriate sources of funding can be obtained, we believe this network can contribute greatly to the affordability solution instead of being part of the problem.”
Council members and Village staff thanked Springs-Net for its efforts, and encouraged the group to report back to Council after further researching its current options. Barhorst said the group will return to Council within three months.
Other items of Council’s July 17 business will be reported in the July 27 News.