CH should not invest in broadband Internet
You may remember Betamax. It was fine for recording and playing videos. But then along came VHS, and Betamax went the way of the dinosaurs. Then the DVD effectively replaced VHS. Now streaming video is making the DVD obsolete.
All this brings to mind a recent presentation before the Municipal Services Committee of Cleveland Heights City Council by the Citizens for Heights Municipal Broadband. As it states on its website [https://heightsbroadband.com], this group wishes the city to pay for “a new utility, a publicly owned Internet Service Provider (ISP) connecting fiber Internet to 100% of Cleveland Heights residents, businesses, and municipal services.” It wants the city to make a major financial commitment to an old technology at taxpayer expense.
No council member at that initial presentation pushed back against this ridiculous proposal. To be fair, discussion then was only preliminary. Hopefully, council members will be skeptical in the future. But at that initial meeting, no one expressed any of three obvious concerns:
First, our city does not have spare cash to spend. At a time when taxes are high and inflation is raging, local government should be doing less and not more. This project will involve consultant fees, construction costs, and the use of a lot of staff time. It will be extremely expensive. A new publicly owned utility should be considered an unaffordable luxury.
Second, our city should not invest in a technology that soon will be obsolete. True, many residents are not well connected to the Internet. Some are unable or unwilling to pay connection costs. Others have problems with poor offerings of current Internet providers. But all that most certainly will change: 5G is becoming more available, and 6G is on the near horizon. Elon Musk recently demonstrated an alternative to fiber optic cable by providing satellite Internet access in Ukraine. Cleveland Heights should not adopt something trendy today that almost certainly will be irrelevant tomorrow.
Third, our city should not go into competition with private companies. It is being asked to use a frankly socialist approach to the provision of Internet access. Council instead should take actions to encourage current Internet service providers to increase and improve their offerings.
This proposal for government Internet service is awful, and should not be allowed by council members to distract them from a pursuit of more important projects.
Alan Rapoport, a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights, served on CH City Council (1980–87) and as mayor (1982–87).