Springboro is moving ahead with plans for construction of a 23-mile fiber-optic network looping the city that officials said will help attract businesses and new residents.
Springboro City Council voted Thursday to contract with the Warren County Port Authority for up to $3.5 million in financing for the project. The Port Authority will own the network and will lease it back to the city until it pays off the debt.
City Manager Chris Pozzuto said the Port Authority will begin seeking bids from contractors for the project, which he expects to be paid off in three years.
Greg Lawson, a research fellow for the conservative think-tank Buckeye Institute in Columbus, questioned the use of taxpayer’s money to pay for such a project.
Lawson, who has published reports on the risks and issues related to government-owned cable networks, warned that the city or its taxpayers could be left with a large debt if the repayment plan fell short.
“You build it. It doesn’t always become a field of dreams,” Lawson said.
While conceding the plan could work, Lawson said the network could hamper existing providers or delay them in bringing new innovations to the city. He also questioned the timing of the plan, while some residents and businesses were struggling through the coronavirus pandemic.
Pozzuto said the city network was designed to promote innovation as well as competition with the current provider, Century Link.
“If an incumbent internet provider knows that there is no real competition – what is their incentive to upgrade their services?” Pozzuto countered in an email.
[Springboro to build high-speed, fiber-optic network]Edit Info
The fiber portion of the project construction is for city use only (connecting Springboro public buildings, water system, etc.), according to Pozzuto. The conduit portion is the portion that Springboro will lease or sell to private internet providers for them to offer their services through their own fiber optic lines to the homes and businesses," Pozzuto said.
“We are building a ‘quasi road’ for government traffic but instead of cars, it is cables traversing it. The fiber cables are for government use. As we put our fiber for government use in the ground we are making the ‘road’ wide enough so private ISPs can use the same road as us to get to customers. We will not run fiber to anyone’s home or any business. We will run fiber to government owned buildings and water and sewer stations to ensure safe drinking water and the like,” Pozzuto said.
“We agree that private enterprise can provide internet services much better than government can, which is why we are not building a government-owned broadband network.”
Kleingers Group will map the network. The city will lease space in city hall and connection to the network to up to five internet providers.
Conduits through which providers are to run fiber would lead into neighborhoods in the city and unincorporated areas around it, including Clearcreek Twp.
To compensate city users, township customers would pay 150 percent for the service.
The first internet provider is expected to pay $100,000 a year.
Installation cost is estimated at $2.5 million. Construction is expected to take eight months to a year.