At Issue: Should Peachtree City fund municipal broadband service?

One of the first decisions Peachtree City will make in 2016 is whether to fund the creation of a municipal broadband utility. The idea for a city-owned fiber optic network was first proposed in August; a preliminary plan was presented to the City Council in August after staff researched the feasibility and the financial implications.

The plan (online at www.peachtree-city.org) calls for the city to invest approximately $3.2 million for equipment and administration to provide high-speed, high-capacity access for local government (including education) and commercial use; residential service is not on the agenda. The city surveyed potential business clients to gauge interest in the project, and the responses indicated that it’s a service that would benefit existing and potential commercial clients – something the plan calls “a facilitator for commerce and economic growth.” The city says it has identified 256 potential customers.

Financially, the plan calls for the $3.2 million to be financed over 10 years. The projected data service revenue for the first five years is just over $1 million, but it has the potential for earning much more as users sign up. There is some risk, however; the plan states that “the profitability of this venture is highly dependent upon achieving enough market share to support the costs related to operating and maintain[ing] the City’s Broadband Network,” adding that if such demand doesn’t materialize, “additional cash reserves or increased rates will be necessary to cover operating losses.”

A decision on whether to move forward with the plan could come as early as the Jan. 7 council meeting. So tell us, do you think Peachtree City should create its own broadband service, or is the financial risk too great? Give us your thoughts at communitynews@ajc.com.

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