West Linn’s fiber network of the future

Published in the West Linn Tidings on January 28, 2016:

One of this year’s City Council goals is to research the feasibility of a municipal fiber network. Other Oregon cities have moved forward and created their own municipal fiber utility. These municipal fiber networks provide up to one-gigabit service at very reasonable costs, which provides a tremendous benefit for residents and local businesses.

Cities were formed centuries ago to provide safety and shared resources to their residents. The next utility to be created for our generation will be high-speed Internet. Currently, residents have to bundle or compromise for expensive substandard service through a small number of Internet providers. I continually hear grumbling about bundles and slow customer service.

Our needs for super-fast Internet will only grow as technologies improve. For example, many more of us are embracing streaming TV over their broadband connection. Our devices will only get smarter and they will require a broadband connection so we can communicate with them effectively. All this will take bandwidth — significant bandwidth. The City is in the best position to provide this fast internet at reasonable cost. We already provide water and sewer at one of the lowest rates in the region. Why not the Internet?

We know West Linn is unique. In fact, we have the second highest number of home-based businesses in the State of Oregon. We always target economic development in our annual goals for years, and here is an initiative that will propel those businesses to the world stage. A faster, cost effective internet to them means an express-lane to the new economy.

As a parent and a professor, I see first-hand how education is transformed by technology. Classes are now online, a video conference is the new office hour and streaming lectures and video are a part of the learning experience. Our school district is using the Internet as part of its learning curriculum. Let’s give our children the best possible advantage.

What are the next steps? The council will explore the feasibility of this initiative in the coming months. We will look at other public models and learn about what worked and what didn’t. I have talked to the mayors of Sandy, Independence and Monmouth and their networks are cost effective, reliable and fast. Their residents are thrilled with the service and they are able to achieve faster speeds for far less cost than private sector providers.

How fast is fast? The speeds that are being served in Sandy, Monmouth, and Independence are 100 MBs or 1 gig, depending on the plan chosen. This means service 10 to 100 times faster then what you have today. Pricing ranges from $40-$60 or so depending on options.

Do you want to be part of the discussion? Email me at tfrank@westlinnoregon.gov and I’ll be providing updates and opportunities for feedback. You can also join me Feb. 9 at my Happy Hour outreach at 5 p.m. at Lil Cooperstown.


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