The Star Tribune included a letter to the editor from FFM’s Tom Steward regarding municipal involvement in broadband service. Read it below or see it online at the Star Tribune‘s website.
Views vary on role of public-private partners
While it is not difficult to make a case for the economic and social benefits that high-speed Internet access can have for individuals and communities, these benefits can best be provided by the private sector when consumer demand requires it. Virtually every time governments in Minnesota have interfered with the free market by attempting to offer their own broadband service, time and valuable public resources have been wasted.
As demonstrated in the November 2009 report released by the Minnesota Broadband Task Force, where adequate demand has existed in the state for broadband, the private sector has provided these services.
One role that government can play in expanding citizens’ access to Internet service is to take the advice given in the legislative task force report and encourage “private sector providers to build out or upgrade their networks where necessary.”
If the city of Monticello, which offers high-speed Internet, phone and cable TV service as a public utility, would have utilized this wise advice, the city could have prevented incurring a large financial liability and time could have been saved. TDS Telecommunications, which was already operating in Monticello, now provides customers there with much faster broadband speeds and free upgrades to its service.
In the past several decades, Minnesota’s telecommunications, cable, and broadband service providers have invested more than $8 billion in private capital to build out, upgrade and maintain the services offered in Minnesota. Thanks to the private sector, Minnesota’s taxpayers should never need to foot the bill for a more expensive, less efficient government-controlled alternative.
TOM STEWARD, INVESTIGATIVE DIRECTOR, FREEDOM FOUNDATION OF MINNESOTA