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Mississippi Shouldn’t Spend Settlement Money On Broadband

April 20, 2016

iStock_000003994351MediumThe state of Mississippi has decided to use the money allocated to it from the a settlement 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill to build a statewide broadband system.

Earlier this month a concerned citizen, Paul Machael, wrote to the Sun Herald arguing the state should use these funds for other purposes instead. Machael stated plainly, “[I]t’s clear state lawmakers should reserve the BP settlement money Mississippi received for purposes other than building a government-owned broadband network.”

Mississippi plans to spend about $15 million on the broadband network.

Machael noted that the private sector already serves the Gulf Coast market and said he hoped the government would spend the millions it will get from the BP settlement on a service that the private sector does not provide. Machael suggested, “How about investing that money in our roads and waterways or in retraining programs for residents who can’t find jobs?” Machael also suggested that the government shouldn’t compete with the private sector because it will keep other private providers from investing in the state.

When discussing Mississippi government-owned broadband networks last fall, taxpayer advocate David Williams made the same arguments to Williams said, “These systems siphon money away from real government responsibilities like public safety and infrastructure like roads.  The private sector is already providing the service. And, when it comes to upgrading and understanding technology, governments are less equipped to do this than the private sector.”

Like Williams, Machael also worried about the future costs of the network, noting “the ‘tens of millions’ of dollars it will take to build this network doesn’t include the yearly cost of maintaining and upgrading” the network. He asked, “Where is the state going to get the money for annual upgrades to its network? From our schools?”

That question is a good one.