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Providence shouldn’t go into internet business

To the editor:

We strongly oppose Providence City taking out an $8,000,000 loan to go into the business of supplying redundant internet access to every household and business in Providence, at taxpayer expense and in direct competition with private Internet Service Providers(ISPs) which provide reliable streaming for a fair price.

City officials promote this as: Lightning speeds! Business friendly! Inexpensive! Micro-trenching! All damage “mitigated”! Private companies will have to lower their rates!—but the arguments fall flat—especially looking at outcomes of similar government municipal projects elsewhere, like Provo, Utah, where a multi-million dollar boondoggle ended up being sold to Google for $1.00. See: https://reason.org/commentary/municipal-broadband-fails-agai/

A City’s mandatory utilities should be constrained to public health and safety—services not legally possible for citizen’s to obtain on their own, i.e. water, fire, police, waste management, and safe roads — not for services already provided by private business. An estimated 60% of the households in Providence currently use private ISPs.

The recent ity newsletter revealed this mandatory “utility” fee would be charged monthly to every household and would supply email and “limited” internet. It also states that if one wants to use this utility for streaming, the cost balloons to basically what citizens already pay private ISPs, companies who have installed their own infrastructure at their cost. This “utility” would cost $120/year, and skyrocket to approximately $1,020 a year to stream. This “extra” streaming service would be paid to the City’s “business partner,” Strata Networks. Why is Strata, a private business, piggy-backing onto a mandatory City utility bill to be able to sell their services to Providence taxpayers? Comcast presently has eight nodes of Fiber optics in Providence.

We strongly object to the installation damage this will do to other utilities and private property. The city says any damage will be “mitigated.” “Mitigated” used in such settings is meaningless— it’s a concept better used in discussions of public land use—and even then, it’s a false notion whose purpose is to promote conflicted activities.

The mayor ran on a campaign of street repair, loudly complaining that Providence had the worst streets in the valley. When elected he proclaimed he “discovered” that the streets were fine! We think many citizens, would much rather a loan pay for 100 East to be rebuilt, so they can avoid the expensive dental work needed associated with driving by the elementary school.

In this time of economic uncertainty, the city in direct competition with private business and burdening households with an unneeded utility fee, sure to go up, is ethically wrong, and not in the the best interest of taxpayers.

Bob Bissland

and Laura Fisher

Providence

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