Your Voice: Task force has learned much about broadband

TO THE EDITOR:

My name is Aaron Paluzzi and for nearly the last 3 years I’ve been the chairman of the Joint Municipal Broadband Task Force for our two cities. Working within a team of interested individuals we’ve interviewed multiple other cities that have made this journey and learned quite a bit about broadband internet as well as the companies that provide it.

We’ve been able to drive this process with the support of the two cities through a formal feasibility study with CCG consulting and Findlay Engineering. I thank the cities for their financial support for this study because we have actually received some encouraging information for the future, and we’ve also gotten more clarity as to why our communities, among others nationally, have languished in terms of high speed internet access and service.

As we have only three providers in our communities, many of us have experienced their limitations and also share the experience of switching among them with the result that we continue to be disappointed. Furthermore, it has come to our attention that AT&T will no longer sell it’s DSL product “Uverse” to new customers limiting many of us to a virtual monopoly with Spectrum who as of 2021 has requested the ability to start implementing data caps, putting more financial burden on residents and businesses who now more than ever need to use the internet to work and to learn.

While a few of us have access to other providers like WOW or AT&T Fiber these networks serve only small pockets or “cherry-picked” business corridors and will never reach our neighborhoods. For years I’ve heard from residents that “If Comcast could come in we’d have competition”. What our residents don’t know is that Comcast has been here for years picking off businesses and avoiding residential areas.

The AT&T Fiber network is not growing, leaving our best case scenario a duopoly between Spectrum and WOW if we maintain the status quo. Skylink (SpaceX’s product) is only suitable to rural areas according to Elon Musk himself. You can see his presentation on youtube. Cellular internet requires excellent signal which is something our communities struggle with. Finally you’ve probably heard about mmWave 5G and the incredible speeds it can achieve. We’ve spoken to Verizon who have stated they will not be providing us this technology as our topology and tree coverage negates the technology.

Our work has revealed the gaps in broadband access and inconsistent provision of promised speed and service from our current internet providers here in Farmington and Farmington hills. I strongly believe the internet is not a luxury but a basic utility no different from water, sewer, electricity, and gas. I challenge the city councils to consider and execute an implementation plan for a fiber-optic broadband network by the end of 2021. Use the research we have done to serve the residents, our kids, our businesses, and community institutions with the kind of internet infrastructure we need to continue to make our cities competitive places to live, work, and play. Infrastructure construction and maintenance is what municipalities are good at, and in the absence of a business case for the private sector to build this infrastructure themselves we are surely putting our residents and businesses at a disadvantage. This is unacceptable.

I ask you to join me in leveling this challenge, and educate yourselves more deeply on this topic by reading the report from CCG which can be found on the Task Force website here. To clarify one point: we asked CCG to investigate what would happen if we had a hookup charge reminiscent of the municipal water hookup you’re charged with new construction. Joining the network is optional, but I believe the benefits outweigh the costs and even leads to a better monthly cost than what the incumbents provide.

https://www.fhgov.com/Government/Current-Programs-Initiatives/Municipal-Broadband-Committee.aspx

I’m grateful for the opportunity to lead the Task Force, and hopeful that our efforts result in higher speeds, better service, lower costs, and long-term value for our two cities.

Aaron Paluzzi

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