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City seeks input on broadband communication

Survey will help officials decide how to improve access

As city officials continue to ponder broadband communication, the public is being asked to weigh in on how communications services are being used in Fort Dodge and perhaps how those services could be changed to benefit the community.

Two online surveys — one for residences and one for businesses — have been set up by SmartSource Consulting, a firm hired by the city to prepare a broadband feasibility study.

The survey asks questions such as “what broadband services do you currently subscribe to at home?” and “who is your internet service provider?”

The purpose of the survey is to “learn about how you are using communications services today at your home or business, to measure your level of satisfaction with current providers, and to gauge interest in a new provider,” a statement on the website, ourbroadbandfuture.com, reads.

There is also a broadband assessment that the city is asking residents to complete. The purpose of that is “to capture actual speed test data from various locations around Fort Dodge.”

The city announced in June that it is considering having the local government set up a new utility to provide broadband communication.

Broadband is a high-capacity transmission technique over the internet which enables a large number of messages to be transmitted at the same time. The Federal Communications Commission defines broadband as having a download speed of 25 megabits per second and an upload speed of 3 megabits per second.

According to information from SmartSource Consulting, Fort Dodge is served by one incumbent telephone company and one cable company.

“Although the presence of two providers would imply that consumers have choices, the reality is that only one of Fort Dodge’s providers has a network capable of meeting today’s bandwidth needs for all but the lightest internet users,” a statement on the website reads. “And neither of these network extends fiber optics all the way to the end user except in the case of larger businesses that are willing to pay for it.”

Several telephone cooperatives serving nearby rural areas have made investments in broadband communications. And at least some of those investments have resulted in service superior to what Fort Dodge has access to.

That is why, according to information from SmartSource Consulting, it might make sense for Fort Dodge to invest in a publicly owned municipal fiber network or another combination of public and private investment.

In the meantime, the firm is seeking more information.

The broadband survey and assessment can be found at http://www.ourbroadbandfuture.com/fort-dodge.html.