December 11, 2017
David Guttenberg, a representative in the Alaska statehouse, has proposed building a municipal broadband network in Fairbanks. The editorial board for the local newspaper, the Daily News-Miner, opposes the idea. It believes the private sector should provide broadband and Internet service.
Cost seems to be the primary reason that the board opposes Rep. Guttenberg’s plan. The writers note local governments are already struggling. For example, “The Fairbanks North Star Borough has been hit by the statewide recession” and “just last month, Mayor Karl Kassel said the borough cannot even afford to maintain the buildings it owns.” The editorial board argues, “Adding an Internet utility is not feasible in the foreseeable future.”
According to the Daily News-Miner, Rep. Guttenberg recently hosted a forum to discuss broadband availability. At that discussion, Golden Valley Electric Association President John Burns said he was interested in a municipal network, but also warned that “high construction costs, legal complications and the absence of a federal grant” could make it difficult to build and operate a sustainable system.
The Daily News-Miner also opposes a municipal broadband network because Alaska Communications, a private firm headquartered in Anchorage, “will begin building infrastructure to bring broadband” to 12,000 people in Fairbanks’ outlying areas starting in 2018.
For these reasons, the Daily News-Miner concludes, “A municipal utility is not the best use of resources in this cash-strapped fiscal climate. The possibility of an Internet co-op is likely years away, and success may be elusive. Let the free market do its job.”
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