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Lake Oswego Voters Reject Municipal Broadband

November 14, 2016

Blue and red fibre optical cablesHere’s one result you might have missed in last week’s round up of election results: voters in Lake Oswego, Ore. dismissed a ballot measure meant to assess support for municipal broadband project to be built through a public-private partnership with local startup Symmetrical Networks. According to the Portland Tribune, the measure “was defeated handily, with 55.2 percent of voters saying no and 44.8 percent saying yes.”

Voters weren’t the only ones skeptical of the idea. As the Tribune wrote, “The council deadlocked earlier this year during discussions about the broadband idea; supporters said it would be a community asset, while opponents were concerned that the City would be left on the hook for the costs of the project if it failed.” To help break the stalemate, the council had “referred the issue to voters to get an additional measurement of public sentiment.”

Lake Oswego’s mayor suggested before the vote “that the council would be looking for a yes vote of at least 55 percent in order to safely move forward with the project.” (The ballot measure, as written, did not require the council to take action on the project. It was merely meant to gauge citizens’ interest. Check out the mayor’s previous statements about this project in our March 2016 blog post.)

Like officials in Seattle, Wash. who rejected a citywide municipal broadband system last year, “The biggest concern,” said the Tribune, “[W]as whether the City would be able to meet the 35 percent sign-up rate that the network would need in order to pay for itself …” Officials were concerned that, if the city didn’t meet the 35 percent sign-up rate they city, not its private sector partner, “would be left on the hook for the costs of the project if it failed.”