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Rochester, MN Votes Down City Broadband Plan

June 12, 2017

In a few blog posts recently, the Coalition for the New Economy has discussed Rochester, Minn.’s debate about whether to pursue a government-owned broadband network.

It appears that, last week, the City Council put the debate to rest—for this year, at least. The council voted against pursuing an official study to look into building a broadband network.

In an interview with a local radio show the morning after the vote, City Council President Randy Staver said he and his fellow councilors simply weren’t sure if there was much demand for the network. The council president noted that some residents said the network wasn’t needed because private providers in the city already offer Internet service.

The city estimated it would cost $65 million to build the network.

In a column published last August, Freedom Foundation of Minnesota CEO Annette Meeks outlined her concerns about the network, and offered alternatives. She advised, “Rather than risking and diverting precious Rochester taxpayer dollars on a questionable plan to construct a city-owned network, elected officials would be wise to consider advances underway by private sector Internet providers and to work with those providers who seek to better serve the city with greater innovation that Rochester desires and deserves.” In his interview last Tuesday, City Council President Staver noted that there are opportunities to work with private providers that already serve the city. Staver said that indicates to him that the city doesn’t “have to jump in” to the broadband market itself.

Staver also worried that technology is shifting to quickly that the city wouldn’t be able to afford to keep the city network up to date. Click here to watch Staver’s full interview.