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Citizen's View: Fiber facts should overcome fears

PADRICKAs a homeowner and chairman of Symmetrical Networks in Lake Oswego, I welcome the community discussion regarding a municipal fiber network. Looking forward to the advisory vote in November, it is especially important that we continue to provide accurate information in response to recurring questions and some misinformation that persists regarding Lake Oswego’s proposed municipal network built in conjunction with Symmetrical Networks.

Speed

Fast internet speed is not speed for “speed’s sake.” In fact, to think that today’s internet speed is good enough for the future is to ignore history at our own peril.

It wasn’t that long ago that I thought one megabit per second was really fast. Since 1997, required speeds have grown at the annual compound rate of 50 percent and show no signs of slowing. The existing copper cable infrastructure can support speeds only so high, and we are quickly reaching that limit.

Paradigm-shifting innovations in health care, education and business are occurring, but require much faster speeds than current infrastructure supports. Fiber-to-the-premises infrastructure can support virtually unlimited speeds into the future as the equipment on both ends is upgraded.

Wireless

While wireless certainly has its place, it is not a substitute for a fiber or other wired connection to your home. In fact, all new wireless innovations (for example, 5G) will require much more fiber in the city.

The suggestion that you can use your cell phone or find a local Boingo “hotspot” is simply not practical. To think that Lake Oswego citizens are going to get in their cars and drive to a hotspot ignores reality. The reality is that virtually every Lake Oswego citizen wants and needs a high-speed wired connection. Today, most citizens who desire high-speed broadband have only one choice for that connection.

Aerial

It is surprising how much confusion seems to surround the use of utility poles to string fiber. To be clear: No one is going to put utility poles in neighborhoods with underground utilities in order to provide a municipal fiber network.

Our original proposal allowed for use of existing utility poles in aerial neighborhoods. We have also presented the City with an alternative construction technique (entirely underground) that would be approximately the same cost as our original proposal. In any event, there is absolutely no reason to fear that your neighborhood with underground utilities will have utility poles installed.

Risk

A repeated concern is that a municipal network will generate significant competition and that citizens will be offered high-speed bandwidth at “$39.95.” Today, most homes and businesses in Lake Oswego that want a symmetrical gigabit fiber connection have only one option at $299.95 per month and substantial installation and activation fees of up to $1,000.

Let’s be clear — lower prices and competition are not a curse, but in fact one of the substantial benefits of a municipal fiber network. We fully expect that all internet costs will decline with a municipal fiber network, whether you become a subscriber or not. That is the beauty of a municipal fiber network — every citizen benefits regardless of whether you are a subscriber.

If residential and business rates decline on average by $30/month, the total direct benefit to Lake Oswego citizens and businesses over 30 years would be approximately $200 million (more than six times the estimated cost of the network).

Responses to other common questions can be found at our website at www.symmetricalnet.com/lake-oswego-faq.

Kevin Padrick is a Lake Oswego homeowner and the chairman and co-founder of Symmetrical Networks. The company is negotiating with the City to build, finance and operate a municipal fiber network.