JAMESTOWN – The future of building a Municipal Broadband Network in Jamestown was mapped out during a public meeting and input session on Thursday night.
The idea is a brainchild of Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist, who promised during his campaign for office that he would work to improve the city’s online infrastructure.
The pandemic, officials say, only bolstered the need for affordable and high-speed internet connections, with families spending more time on the web for work, school and play.
Meeting at the James Prendergast Library Thursday, Mayor Sundquist and EntryPoint Networks consultant Jeff Christensen took feedback from those in attendance. The next step, Sundquist says, is to gather even more feedback.
“So, moving forward, we’ll be creating a broadband commission made up of various members of city council, BPU, and citizen members to really help us dig deep and determine whether we want to try to move forward with this city-wide fiber and broadband project,” says Sundquist.
The proposal would build out an infrastructure to provide fast and affordable internet plans to city residents using fiber optics, a faster medium than traditional coaxial cable. Essentially, broadband would become a public utility, just like water and sewer.
“Up until now, the internet has been treated as an amenity. So it’s a nice to have. But the mayor alluded to this, with the pandemic there was greater acceleration around policy saying this is no longer an amenity. This is essential infrastructure,” explains Jeff Christensen from EntryPoint Networks.
Those who signed up would pay around $35 dollars a month for a gigabyte of dedicated internet service, with the price likely decreasing once initial infrastructure is completed. Rates for the Internet Service Provider (ISP) are so low because of competitive competition.
“The state budget for the first time included funding for municipal networks, and we’ve had many conversations with the state on the ability to fund a full-out infrastructure,” says Sundquist.
This funding would mean taxes would not increase to achieve the project, which would be the first in the state. In addition, federal programs would allow 40 percent of Jamestown residents to access these services for free.
In a survey conducted to gauge interest in the idea, 75 percent of participants said they would support a municipal network.