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Grand Junction Votes Against Municipal Broadband

March 6, 2017

Last week this blog reported that city leaders in Grand Junction, Colo. were getting cold feet about diving into the broadband marketplace with a government-owned Internet Service Provider (ISP). According to KJCT8, city councilors went with their gut instincts (and history, which reveals the risks associated with municipal networks), voting last Wednesday not to move forward.

The city’s plan would have called for entering into a $70 million contract with SiFi “and its partners” to build an underground fiber optics network. According to KJCT8, “Many city council members expressed concerns about the government competition with existing Internet companies and the city’s financial burden.” Residents at the meeting voiced similar concerns. To try alleviate those worries, Sifi and its partners “offered to set aside $5 million for the city to mitigate its risk of losing money” and agreed to “conduct an independent third-party analysis of its plan.”

It was not enough.

According to The Criterion, Councilman Duncan McArthur said, “I think there are other alternatives out there that we need to seriously consider … I have all the reasons in the world to do this, but I have 70 million reasons not to do this.” Councilwoman Barbara Taylor Smith also wasn’t sold on the idea. She said, “I get mixed opinions from people about technology and about where technology is going, about what the community needs.”

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel noted that Sifi told the city that 32 percent of residents would need to subscribe to the network for it to be financially sustainable. Sifi, it seems, was certain that “take rate” was feasible, but city leaders, including Mayor Phyllis Norris, were skeptical. According to the Daily Sentinel, the mayor “didn’t believe the results … that there would be enough customers (or, take rate) who would switch to the city’s public-private network.”

The vote last Wednesday was 5 to 2, but unfortunately still might not be the final one on this matter. According to KJCT8, “The city said it will revisit the issue again in the future.”