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Broadband vote is Tuesday in Fort Dodge

Voters to decide on utility

Fort Dodge voters will have their say on the possibility of the city having a municipal broadband utility during Tuesday’s election.

This is the question they will be voting on:

”Shall the city of Fort Dodge, in Webster County, Iowa, establish a municipal telecommunications utility (including the potential provision of video, voice, data, and all other forms of telecommunications and cable communications services) for the city?”

If a simple majority of those voting vote yes, the city government would have the authority to set up such a utility. However, passage of the measure would not require the city to do so, and there is no guarantee the city would ever get into the broadband business.

Opponents of the concept, including Mediacom, a current internet service provider, have claimed that a municipal broadband utility would cause taxes to go up. Some have also claimed that the utility would siphon money away from road repairs and other essential services.

None of that is true, according to city officials.

City Manager David Fierke has explained repeatedly that the utility would be paid for by revenues generated by fees charged for its services, not tax dollars.

The initial financing for constructing a system would come from revenue bonds that would be paid off with the utility’s own revenues, he said.

According to Mayor Matt Bemrich, a having a municipal broadband utility would provide local control over an essential service. He said all the decisions about running the utility would be made by local people. He said the money earned by the utility would be reinvested in the system, rather than going to investors elsewhere.

A Mediacom representative has defended the service the company provides to Fort Dodge.

”What we provide today is on par with any other broadband technology, and we’re moving further ahead from where we are today and we’re moving there very quickly,” Phyllis Peters, the company’s communications director, said during an Oct. 17 forum in Fort Dodge. ”I think we have a track record for speed and I think we have a track record for reliability.”

Frontier Communications, the other major provider of internet service in Fort Dodge, has not made any public comment about Tuesday’s referendum.