Yepsen is right on fiber optic plans

Published November 19, 2004

Dear Editor:

I really enjoyed David Yepsen’s November 16 column on the flawed thinking behind municipal broadband initiatives. Fiber-to-the-home sounds great until you start to take into account the very high cost – about $4,000 per wired home – and the rapid expansion of less-expensive alternatives such as DSL, cable, and wireless.

Voters up here in Illinois’ “Tri-Cities” area – Batavia, Geneva, and St. Charles – recently voted down a municipal broadband initiative for the second time. The high risk to taxpayers if the new entity failed to achieve its ambitious forecasts of market penetration and the relatively small number of people who need the bandwidths promised by fiber-to-the-home killed it.

Unfortunately, with many millions of dollars in construction and operating contracts in the balance, there will always be long line of “consultants” eager to sell these plans to municipal officials eager to demonstrate how “progressive” they are. It would be okay if they spent only their own money, rather than ours!

Joseph L. Bast
Chicago, Illinois

Joseph L. Bast is president of The Heartland Institute, a national nonprofit and nonpartisan think tank based in Chicago. He is the author of a recent policy study on municipal broadband.