The following opinion piece was submitted by activist Debbie Dooley, a founding member of the Georgia Tea Party Patriots. It has been published without editing or alteration by AllOnGeorgia and does not necessarily reflect the views of the AllOnGeorgia organization.
Back in 1952, the radio icon Paul Harvey argued that “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.”
Savannah residents should remember Harvey’s wisdom today whenever city leaders talk about the need for a taxpayer-financed and city-run broadband network that will compete with private sector Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Well-meaning officials will tell you that they just want to provide faster, better Internet service. I know that we all need that (even though we have it), but this bright, shiny new project actually is a very bad idea.
The government might give you the Internet, but in one way or another—whether it’s in lower employment, funding cuts for other programs, or higher taxes—it’ll eventually will have to take something away.
First, government simply should not be allowed to compete with the private
sector because it will put jobs at risk. Government sets the rules by which all other players operate. City hall cannot be both the referee and a competitor. According to Broadband Now, Savannah has two main wired providers that offer service to the vast majority of city residents. There are another seven wired providers that cover portions of the city. For wireless, there are three providers that serve 100 percent of the city and two more that serve 98 percent of residents.
A city network would aim to take subscribers away from these companies. These companies provide jobs and benefits to Savannah residents and tax revenues to city hall and our state. With a city-run broadband network, we can say goodbye to those.
Given the fact that residents have multiple Internet service options, it doesn’t really seem like city hall needs to get into the broadband business anyway. It’s a waste. If the mayor needs something to do, I suggest he try to provide funding for the 298 capital projects that the city already cannot afford to complete. Here are just a few of the items the city recently announced that it might cut due to funding shortfalls:
· A new business development center on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (there go more jobs);
· New storage urns for the Columbarium at Bonaventure Cemetery; and
· A new neighborhood resource center on Pennsylvania Avenue.
City officials should explain why they are contemplating cutting these programs at the same time they want to build a government-owned broadband network. What else will Savannah have to say goodbye to in order to fund this network?
Finally, municipal networks aren’t even that successful when they do compete. Indeed, a number of cities have failed in their ventures into the broadband market. Lake County, Minn. recently decided to sell its city-owned network. That system cost local and federal taxpayers more than $80 million.
It’s unclear how much the city will recoup in its sale, but it probably won’t be anywhere near $80 million. When Marietta, Ga. sold its municipal network it lost more than $20 million. Memphis, Tenn., Groton, Conn., and Provo, Utah also lost millions on their failed ventures. Residents’ Internet service also was put at risk during these sales. If Savannah’s network cannot make ends meet, we can expect similar losses, or tax increases to cover the system’s deficits. And that risk comes at a time when Chatham County is discussing property tax and other fee increases.
Savannah already cannot afford all that local officials are trying to do. Government shouldn’t try to do any more, or taxpayers will pay for it.