Fort Dodge, IA voters gave their overwhelming approval to establish a municipal telecommunications utility last week. Final vote: 1,772 voters cast a YES ballot (71.6 percent) with 683 (28.4 percent) voting NO. The issue before the electorate was:
“Shall the city of Fort Dodge, in Webster County, Iowa, establish a municipal telecommunications utility (including the potential provision of video, voice, data, and all other forms of telecommunications and cable communications services) for the city?”
Efforts opposing the new city-owned entity and shading it as a risky venture came from a local operator, Mediacom, and a government watchdog group, the Taxpayer Protection Alliance. The other telecom in the area, Frontier Communications, did not comment on the referendum, reported the Fort Dodge Messenger. Support came from the Fort Dodge Messenger and a local broadcaster.
The city conducted a feasibility study in June, 2019 that stated community broadband was a top-rated need identified by the City Council and key to “the enhancement of quality of life and economic development for our community.” The study was designed to provide initial insight as to “how Fort Dodge can have access to 21st-century telecommunications; allowing for virtually unlimited bandwidth and unmatched reliability for community users, including but not limited to industrial, healthcare, education, government, commercial and our residential users.” Fort Dodge is surrounded by areas that are served by fiber-to-the-premise networks provided by several small, independent telcos.
November 13, 2019