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Study: FD residents unhappy with internet providers

Council receives report in runup to referendum

More than half of the Fort Dodge residents who participated in a recent survey indicated they would switch to a different internet service provider if it offered better service than what they now receive.

The voters will decide next Tuesday if their city government might be that different provider. If more than 50 percent of those casting ballots vote yes, the city will be granted the power to set up a municipal broadband utility.

Just days away from that referendum, the City Council on Monday received a report called a pre-feasibility study from SmartSource Consulting, of Grimes, which it hired in June to advise it on broadband issues.

“Consumers in Fort Dodge feel they’re not really satisfied with their broadband options,” Curtis Dean, the company’s president, told the council.

Dean said the results of the study show Fort Dodge consumers would “react favorably to a new provider in the market.”

Perhaps most indicative of that attitude was a survey question that asked people to rate their willingness to change providers on a scale of one to 10, with 10 meaning they would be most likely to switch.

According to data presented Monday, 53 percent of those responding rated their willingness to switch at a 10.

Another 13 percent rated their willingness to switch at nine, while 16 percent rated their willingness to change at an eight.

The report presented Monday made these conclusions:

• A highly significant number of Fort Dodge citizens do not feel adequately served by existing telephone and cable TV companies to meet their quality of life needs.

• Reliability, price and overall customer service experience are issues for consumers that cause negative perceptions about the value of service they are being provided.

• Because choices for broadband internet service are very limited or even non-existent for some consumers, there is strong desire for an alternative provider to serve the community.

• There appears to be adequate potential market share for a competing alternative provider to compel additional investigation as to the financial viability of entering the Fort Dodge market.

• Potential customer density, consistent levels of dissatisfaction in the community and scaled construction costs improve the financial viability for an alternative provider to be able to financially compete with existing providers.

Dean estimated the cost of building a municipal broadband utility at $22.2 million to $31.9 million, depending on the number of homes and businesses that are initially hooked up.

He said the monthly customer bills for such a utility would “likely be within the competitive landscape of retail pricing for broadband services.” He did not offer any specific figures.