PLATFORM/Providing Internet service
The St. Paul, Minn., City Council recently debated whether the city should provide high-speed Internet services to residents. In taking up the discussion, the city joined a growing national debate about whether government or the marketplace should dictate price, performance and availability. American City & County recently asked readers of its weekly newsletter if they believe local government should provide Internet services, and if so, under what circumstances. Below are some of the responses:
“I do not believe cities should be in direct competition with private business. I do think that if this is a service residents cannot get elsewhere, then it’s a good thing. Our county is in the center of Colorado on top of the Rocky Mountains (10,000 feet). The only way to access high-speed Internet is through satellite that costs approximately $60 per month. The county has a T1 line and its own satellite Internet. Unfortunately we are unable to collect further revenue due to Colorado’s Tabor Amendment, and so we cannot even try to furnish high-speed Internet to our residents.”
— Kathy Boyce, Director, Park County, Colo., Budget & Finance Department
“Governments should facilitate expansion of the infrastructure, not provide the service. Particularly with the amount of innovation and evolution that continues in the tech world, competition in the private sector will ultimately provide better service. And the evolution of cost-effective, satellite-based systems expands that potential. Only in rural areas where the cost of the connections could be extraordinary would it be appropriate for government to step in. Even there, it would seem that the private sector then be engaged to provide the service at the end of the fiber.”
— Al King, Intergovernmental Policy Manager, County Road Administration Board, Olympia, Wash.
“This sort of foolishness (governments must be all things to all people) is much of the reason for the high taxes we have. It has been proven time and time again throughout history, the private sector can do it better and less expensively than governments can. The competition will make sure of it. It will infuse money into the economy and create jobs.”
— Robert Lutz, Recorder, Tazewell County, Ill.