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Another Vote Against Fort Collins Municipal Broadband

October 24, 2017

municipal broadband coloradoAs Coalition for the New Economy readers are aware, in two weeks voters in Fort Collins, Colo. will consider a ballot measure that authorizes the city to build a municipal broadband system.

Heartland Institute writer Brandi Wielgopolski already has advised residents to vote no on the question. So has Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David May.

This past week was Priorities First Fort Collins’ Sarah Hunt’s turn.

Writing in the Coloradan, Hunt argued the ballot measure “provides few specifics and far too much risk for Fort Collins voters” to vote for it.

Hunt notes that, while the measure allows “the city utility to go into debt up to $150 million by issuing bonds to build a broadband system,” officials haven’t “nailed down” other “critical details.” For example, the city doesn’t how it actually will provide service or what it will do if the network fails. (The Coloradoan, as Hunt notes, has explained that failure “could result in every electrical utility customer being billed $17 a month for the life of the bonds, or about $2,420 per premise.”)

Failure is possible, even likely, Hunt says. As evidence, she points to the recent University of Pennsylvania study that found only a small percentage of municipal networks generate enough revenue to pay back the debt that cities incurred to build them.

Hunt also argues the city has more important priorities to consider, including “maintaining public safety and solving traffic congestion.” She notes that, if the city goes into debt for a municipal network, it “will max out the city utility’s bonding capacity for five years, meaning no ability to borrow money for repairing or replacing our aging water, wastewater and electrical infrastructure …”

Hunt concludes, “Voters deserve to see solid evidence that the city can deliver on its promises in the fiercely competitive and constantly innovating world of high-speed internet service” before voters are asked to agree to a ballot measure.