David Rodeback's Blog

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Internet Access at Home and Abroad (Mostly at Home)

I'm in British Columbia tonight, traveling on business with the boss. He decided that our lodging of choice was a bed and breakfast, since here in beautiful Kelowna right now such things are far cheaper than actual hotel rooms. It's a sensible decision. Unfortunately - and, I confess, somewhat unexpectedly - I find myself isolated from the Internet. I have access to nationwide dialup in the US, but apparently not in Canada. And the wireless connectivity I'm used to in hotels doesn't currently exist at this B and B. So . . . no e-mail (I'm already in withdrawal), and, as far as this blog is concerned, I can write but not post.

At home in American Fork, I have reliable Internet bandwidth which is almost as fast as the T-1 at the office, for about one-fifteenth the price of that T-1. I'm on American Fork City's system, AFCNet, which the City bought from the old SwitchPoint/AirSwitch folks after they packed up and left. It was a rather controversial purchase, to be sure.

Here we are in the 21st century, and I confess it makes good sense to me for Internet access to be a public utility, just as water, electricity, and gas are. As I have said, I think the City could use this very modern, arguably big-city feature quite effectively in marketing the city to employers and employees and their families. (We're on the interstate, we have affordable broadband, but we're still a small city; don't you want to live and locate your business here?) That said, my major concern when the purchase was debated was whether the City could manage it well enough for it to break even, or nearly so, or whether it would become a serious drain on the City budget. By all accounts, it is now the latter. I hear rumblings, including among City officials, of trying to sell it, and if that fails, of shutting it down - and some of the talk is probably serious.

But there's something we should try first, before we surrender our beachhead in the 21st century: competent management. When I talk to business people in the city, here's what I typically find: They are aware that the system exists, but it has not been extended to their business - or if it has, the City hasn't managed to communicate that. There are rumors afoot of some businesses being connected, at the low residential rate (about $40).

Nothing is as easy to do as it is to say, but here's what should have happened long ago, and should now happen immediately, since it hasn't already: The City should extend the service to businesses and charge them competitive commercial rates. My company, for example, has that T-1, which is actually more than we currently need. AFCNet is almost as fast and would be more than adequate for us. We're now paying over $700 per month for the T-1; the boss says would gladly pay $300, $400, or even $500 per month for the City's service (ten times what I pay at home) - but it's not available. It's not far away, geographically, but it's not available to us.

My point is simply this: Before we jettison one of American Fork's best claims on modernity, we should give good management a try, and we should make the commercial rates at least half as high as the rates businesses are currently paying.

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