Imagine gigabit internet speeds at home, for an estimated $50 a month, with no data caps and total respect for net neutrality. If you live in Southwest Hillsboro, or plan on living in South Hillsboro when housing is ready there, that could be a reality for you in 2019.
City council directed city employees yesterday to move forward in those two neighborhoods. South Hillsboro, as new construction, is a simple place to roll out a project like this, while the Shute Park neighborhood has some of the lowest broadband access in the city. Rollout to the rest of Hillsboro, if eventually approved, would take an estimated ten years.
City officials discussed the plan with City Council during a work session on May 15.
“There are very few opportunities…in government work to create a new service, for the community, with the goal of decreasing their costs,” said City Manager Micheal Brown.
And if the projected price of $50 a month is accurate, that’s substantial savings. Internet customers throughout the city are paying companies like Comcast and Frontier more than that for much slower connections, and generally have to put up with data caps to boot.
Greg Mont, Information Services Director, said the municipal broadband would not have such data caps and would respect net neutrality.
“Net neutrality is something that we would definitely address,” said Mont. “We’re doing this for the community, we’re not doing this for a financial interest. Our goal is the information, it’s to allow everyone to access that information, so we don’t have a motive to offer any kind of road blocks or limits.”
According to Brown $28 million of funding for the project will come from gain share revenue. That money will fund the first six years of the program.
City council was very enthusiastic about the plan.
“This is fantastic,” said Councillor Anothy Martin. “This is a great way to provide a service for the city which is not only necessary but also achievable.”
Councilor Olvia Alcaire asked if lower income residents would have a more affordable option, and was told yes.
“Absolutely,” said Mont. “We’re modeling that people below the poverty line would pay $10 for gigabit speeds.”
Throughout the meeting Mont emphasized how the program could help people without broadband access, particularly students, and improve equity in access to information.
“Computer access is three components: the hardware, the internet access, and the training,” said Mont. “If you give only two of three you miss the point.”
Councillor Fred Nachtigal, typically cautious about government spending, expressed unambiguous support for the program. He ending the meeting with his trademark deadpan.
“I can’t see how this could end up losing money or hurting our image unless we totally screw it up,” said Nachtigal.
Brown had a quick response: “We’ll try to not do that.”