Lakelanders Deserve High Speed Internet- A Guest Column by Commissioner Justin Troller
Imagine paying for something very valuable for decades and not being able to use it. Then imagine a privileged few get to use it, but you don’t. That’s the situation Lakelanders face today. Lakeland owns more than 330 miles of fiber network infrastructure. This infrastructure uses a particular type of cable that utilizes light, instead of electricity, to transmit information.
In the past, the cable was installed for communication between critical municipal services. Then Lakeland began providing that fiber to a select few who find it in their best interest to use the city’s fiber rather than private providers.
The select few with access love the city fiber that you are paying for. It is time for this fiber infrastructure to work for everyone.
We can now use that fiber to give you fast, reliable and affordable internet. The only component missing is the connection from the road to your home or business.
The city has been discussing building out a high-speed internet network using our fiber-optic infrastructure for years. Lakeland is uniquely positioned to take advantage of such a network, and it will save us money in the long run. We have existing infrastructure that can be leveraged to serve all Lakelanders, not a select few.
By investing in the final connection, we can reduce customer costs in the long-term, because you are the owners and not just the users. To private providers, you are a source of profit; to our city, you are an investment in our shared community. That investment will create innovation, economic development, job growth, and a higher quality of life, while also providing a savings on your internet bill.
In 1904, our community rallied around a vision to invest in electricity. The vision to create Lakeland Electric has brought us over a century of benefits, adding $31 million to the city of Lakeland’s budget this year alone. This revenue helps keep our property taxes low. All told, Lakeland Electric has contributed close to $600 million in dividends since inception.
In 1914, that same community vision was applied to quality healthcare for residents. We now have access to an amazing hospital and medical complex that has contributed close to $300 million to Lakeland while providing premium care to our community.
A century later, an opportunity presents itself to connect our community to the future by building out our existing high-speed fiber network.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the private sector was not building roadways that our burgeoning county desperately needed for sustained growth. The government stepped in and built the badly needed roads, literally paving the way for accelerated progress. That investment in our infrastructure was one of the cornerstones of American achievement.
Today, the roadways of the future are not concrete; they are fiber. Lakeland has invested millions of dollars in building the current fiber network, and now it’s time to make the final investment to connect all Lakelanders. Keep in mind, whether we hook-up that fiber to every home and business or not, we all continue to pay for the existing infrastructure.
The city has done its due diligence by having a feasibility study. There have been numerous community meetings, a survey, a forum, and hundreds of public comments. In response, private providers have done what they do best, raise prices.
Many of us are still using decades-old infrastructure, and we’ve grown accustomed to the high prices and lousy service. Because of the investment that has already been made, we have been granted a chance by our past leaders to move forward and allow this infrastructure to benefit all Lakelanders.
The choice is clear. Lakeland will benefit from our current fiber infrastructure and the city of Lakeland has a proven track record it can deliver quality services.
When we grow older and our children and grandchildren ask us how Lakeland prepared for their future, I don’t want us to say we tried to rely on someone else. Lakelanders deserve better than is currently offered.
Join me in this infrastructure plan by asking for a public vote! Please support the efforts to place this on the ballot, so Lakelanders can decide if we want to continue the track record of shared innovation and excellence in our community.