City leaders are evaluating whether creating their own broadband service might solve the lack of coverage businesses and residents have complained about for years. Now, City Council members are being asked to allocate bond funding for an $84,500 contract with Magellan Advisors to complete the feasibility study recommended by the Waterloo Telecommunications Utility Board.
According to Government Technology, Mayor Quentin Hart supports the study to determine whether a city-run telecommunications network is necessary.
“Broadband internet connections are essential today,” said Hart. “We just want to make sure that we are competitive and that we continue to try to offer the best opportunity.”
If the contract is approved, Magellan Advisors would consider whether it’s feasible for Waterloo to have its own municipal telecommunications utility and also look into a public-private partnership. According to a survey conducted by the Waterloo Industrial Development Association, 43 percent of the 340 respondents were “very dissatisfied or dissatisfied” with their current ISP, and 77 percent of respondents were likely to switch providers if a superior service was offered for a reasonable price.
Currently, Mediacom is the dominant ISP in Waterloo, followed by CenturyLink and several smaller providers, per Government Technology. Mediacom spokesman Tom Larsen said Waterloo residents and businesses are not at a broadband disadvantage.
“We have a tremendous amount of fiber in and around Waterloo, and are more than willing to work with any business that wants to connect,” Larsen said. “If there are areas the city feels are lacking fiber access, I can say with certainty that having a local provider like Mediacom expand its existing network would be a significantly cheaper alternative than spending tens of millions on a new network.” Larsen added, “We have invested millions and millions of private dollars in Waterloo and across Iowa to make sure our systems stay ahead of the technology curve. In January 2017, we launched gigabit internet across the state, making Iowa at that time the national leader in gigabit broadband availability.”
Mayor Hart said Waterloo is hoping to have answers about its broadband options next spring. However, this is contingent upon the council’s approval of the Magellan contract.
October 17, 2019
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