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Ft. Collins, CO Headed in the Right Direction to Improve their Broadband

September 11, 2013

According to the Northern Colorado Business Report, officials in Fort Collins will hold a public meeting on Oct. 2 to discuss how the city can help spur more broadband investment and services in the area. The magazine says, “The city is looking at how changes in the cable TV and broadband marketplace will provide new and improved services for city residents, businesses and organizations and how much those new serves will cost.
The city also is looking at its level of involvement as well as how cable TV and internet service providers can help meet communications needs.”

Last month, towns in Virginia decided to delay a vote on municipal broadband “out of an abundance of caution.”

They were right to. As officials and residents in Colorado and Virginia consider the options we’d like to remind them of how wasteful GONs have been. For example:

  • According to the Maryland Reporter, state auditors found the Department of Information Technology did not maintain adequate internal controls in managing a $158 million project to upgrade and expand Maryland’s high-speed fiber optics infrastructure …” State officials also agreed “to pay the project manager an 8% markup on subcontracted services” without telling DoIT’s senior management. According to the Reporter, “Further, this markup generally was impermissible in all DoIT contracts. The auditor reported a cumulative markup of $103,000 had been paid to the project manager through July 2012.”
  • Meanwhile. according to WPRO Radio, in West Virginia, lack of oversight on a statewide broadband project resulted in $14 million wasted. The overspending includes “stacks of high-speed routers sat unused, paid for by U.S. taxpayers at the tune of $20,000 a piece — all because the state bought too many of the wrong routers.” (CNE has followed this story since the beginning: see our posts here, here and here.)

Fort Collins officials should be applauded for concentrating on current infrastructure and how it can be improved, and for getting the entire community involved in the decision-make process. Local Virginia officials, should be congratulated for their caution. We hope they will conclude that the best way to spur more broadband investment is to partner with the private sector – either by creating incentives for investment for all companies or breaking down barriers (excessive fees or regulations) to entry. Three towns in rural New York recently decided to take the route of public-private partnership and, as a result, their broadband expansion will come at limited cost to taxpayers.

Private sector involvement doesn’t only cut down on taxpayer cost, it also provides much needed expertise that could help local authorities for making some of the bad spending decisions noted above.