Imagine if Borders and Barnes & Noble, claiming it was killing their book sales, asked lawmakers to ban cities from building libraries. The legislators would laugh them out of the State House. Yet the same thing is happening right now with respect to Wi-Fi and other municipal broadband plans, and it is being taken all too seriously. In fact, although it is almost universally acknowledged that broadband access is essential to economic growth and education, phone and cable companies are lobbying furiously to prohibit municipalities from providing free or discounted broadband to their residents.
Cottage Grove, Oregon, Looks to Bring Jobs to Town With Fiber Expansion
Cottage Grove, Oregon, is on the cusp of adding up to 250 new jobs with the aid of its fiber optic network. A recent Register-Guard.com article by Serena Markstrom details the potential project between the City and First Call Resolution. The company is interested in expanding to a Cottage Grove shopping strip. While the space is the right size and location, it does not have the needed telecommunications connections for a high-capacity call center.
The City is looking into expanding its fiber optic network to accommodate First Call. City leaders will seek a state economic development grant and recently approved funding for an engineer's construction plan to lay the cable to get an accurate cost estimate. Initial estimates are $450,000 for an entire underground installation. Council members have already suggested that the expansion makes sense, regardless of whether or not First Call becomes a tenant. The 7 miles of fiber are primarily located in the southern part of the city while the shopping strip is in the north.
The City Manager Richard Meyers hopes the added infrastructure will bring more than just First Call Resolution to the shopping strip. From the article:
The commercial strip being considered for the call center has much empty space. “The whole plaza needs help,” Meyers said. “We need to do something to see if we can get other things in there.”
If more businesses moved in and started leasing the cable, the city could collect money — just like any utility — from those who tapped into the network and use those funds to continue to expand fiber optic cable around town, Meyers said.
“With our fiber and what we’ve developed, we’re within 4,000 feet of connecting” to the Village Center, he said. “That’s how close we are,” he said. “It’s not a huge distance. We can do it. (It would be a) piece of cake to connect our system to his network and so all of [First Call Resolution's] call centers would be on the same network.”
The city network also offers a Wi-Fi network throughout 80% of the city. Rates vary, ranging from 10 free hours each month at 128 Kbps to 7 Mbps unlimited with tech support for $50 per month. According to the CGWiFi website:
CGWiFi is a service provided by the City of Cottage Grove. The City of Cottage Grove developed CGWiFi after many years of efforts to improve the availability of broadband services within the community. The City of Cottage Grove fiber optic and WiFi System were developed to primarily create infrastructure capacity, provide connectivity and enhance technology available for South Lane School District and Lane Community College and to improve broadband service for Public Safety and government operations. CGWiFi was created using excess capacity on the system to provide the public access to broadband services. The fees for public broadband services cover the operation and bandwidth requirements for the public use.
City Hall, the South Lane schools and district office within city limits, and the Creswell school district and schools are now connected with fiber. Plans are in the works to also connect the Cottage Grove Hospital to the fiber system. The city is working with the Regional Fiber Consortium.
As we learn more, we will bring any new developments from Cottage Grove. Like many of the other communities that use their networks for economic development, we anticipate positive results.