The council adopted this goal at its Monday, April 27, regular meeting, conducted online via Zoom. Mayor Kevin Egan acknowledged this goal will take time to reach.
Kathy Moore, a Lake Shore resident and consultant to the city’s broadband committee, shared information with the council. The broadband committee is trying to get high speed internet for all city residents.
Moore said they are trying to figure out how to make broadband access equitable and fair within the community.
“It doesn’t really matter what street you live on, you should have the same access,” she said, adding they want the council to consider making fiber to the home an option for everyone.
“It’s not a cheap thing,” Moore said, adding the committee is not asking for money right now, but wanted the city to set the goal of equitable access for everyone so the city can apply for state and federal grants.
The next step is to figure out data to become eligible for grants, Moore said. A map shows Lake Shore is overrepresented, which makes it hard to get grants.
Moore said she has three children who are doing distance learning schoolwork off hotspots because they don’t have broadband access.
“And I can’t even tell you how painful this is. I can throw a rock and hit Bar Harbor, and yet I don’t have (broadband) access,” she said, adding she’s talking about more than participation in a Zoom meeting or searching the internet. She can’t upload a video file from home.
High-speed internet is important for telemedicine as well as education. And, Egan said, real estate values decline for properties without broadband access. A broadband committee memo to the council said fiber to the home increases real estate values up to 7%.
The mayor said the broadband committee will tackle all these issues.
The broadband committee memo said three telecoms serve Lake Shore – TDS, CenturyLink and CTC – along with one cable company (Spectrum/Charter).
“Telecom and cable providers have built broadband where they see it’s profitable, not to every household,” the memo said.
Cable has been built out because of a special license from the city along the primary “high density” population roads in the city. If a property owner is within 250 feet of one of those roads, he has access to broadband (cable).
With the exception of a few neighborhoods (Majestic Lane on the west side of Lake Margaret, and the region around County Road 107 and Agate Lake Drive, for example) that are served by fiber, all other properties in Lake Shore are limited to DSL coverage, satellites or mobile providers (hotspots), the memo said, noting these other types of internet services offer dramatically slower speeds.
The memo said the telecoms have deemed the remainder of the city as uneconomical to expand service. Without financial incentives, service/speed will not increase or expand to non-cable property owners, it said.
“The increased use of internet as a result of the COVID-19 has put many Lake Shore residents at a dramatic disadvantage,” the memo said. “If several children are at home working on distance learning, without broadband, internet speeds can slow to a crawl. Telemedicine (video call with a doctor) is difficult. Telecommuting is a strain.”
Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or email@example.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.
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