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City Council needs forward thinking on broadband internet

A response to Dan Carson's op-ed opposing a city-owned broadband network

There are significant economic reasons to have a municipal fiber project

Published by Matt Williams in the Davis Enterprise, reprinted with permission of the author

I respectfully disagree with Dan Carson.

As a member of the BATF I would like to share with the public the following list of reasons that explain why BATF came to the official conclusion in writing that “the emotion and passion around the concept of a municipal fiber project could not be any more intensified."

BATF officially chose not to include the detailed list in the current recommendation memo because the focus of the memo was limited to the two additional tasks Council gave the BATF in 2018. These reasons cover what was learned during the whole BATF duration from 2016 to 2019. It is important to note that there are some BATF members who might not personally agree with some of the listed reasons; however ALL of the reasons were actively discussed by the BATF. 

So, while I am a member of the BATF, and also the Chair of the Finance and Budget Commission, I present these reasons to you as an individual:


    • There will be significant obstacles to Economic Development if the City does not proceed with Municipal Fiber as discussed by the BATF and “own the last mile” of the local Davis fiber communications network.

    • ... and significant economic development opportunities will become available if the City does “own the last mile” of the local Davis fiber communications network.

    • Prospect companies thinking about locating in Davis will see a proactive, in-place telecommunications deployment, ready for their immediate use, rather than an ad-hoc, reactive telecommunications deployment that requires expensive and time-consuming case-by-case buildout.

    • Being able to market “The City of Davis” as a network neutral and fiber-ready city has a very broad appeal to startups and mid-sized companies, especially those in “soft industries” (companies that employ knowledge workers and no heavy manufacturing)

  2. Fiber to every house/building, and those owned by the City, is essential for the City’s future economic health.

  3. Telemedicine and medical education enhancements.

  4. A “21st Century Research University will require remote access to on-campus experiments. Without fiber that will not be achievable.

  5. Helping UCD build a city-wide virtual campus will be a very positive win-win step forward in building the relationship between UCD and the Davis community.

  6. Smart City/Public Safety initiatives like Police and Fire applications; utility meters, and various other civic applications.

  7. Smart City/Smart Grid requirements to respond to and make meaningful progress on the Climate Emergency Declaration passed by Council.

  8. Broadband Access for every resident of Davis will define economic and social justice for all based on access. Some examples of such access are:

    • Extension of In-Class/On-Campus grade school and high school assignments and research tools to off-campus venues. The City could establish training program/internship for high school students wanting hands-on experience with the maintenance of the network. This could be a gateway into real-world IT and there is a need for IT professionals.

    • Online education. It will be essential for economic mobility, crucially so for the disadvantaged.

    • Interactive access to City services, which will evolve to require bb service.

    • Employment and career development opportunities.

    • Family communication, such as keeping an eye on aging parents.

    • Greater choice and level of service and net neutrality for residents and businesses in the community.

    • Private service without commercial data mining of every action by Davis residents.

    • City-owned fiber to every premise is essential for social justice and net neutrality.


Rik Keller

Thanks for this article, Matt! I am interested in hearing more about why Dan Carson is taking such a heavy-handed approach in this, seemingly working to preserve the status quo of the reign of terrible service providers like Comcast

Ron O

Matt: Thanks for your efforts regarding this.

Was wondering exactly what your differences with Dan Carson are, regarding this. And, how you calculated that your monthly Internet bill would drop by $20/month, with a city-owned broadband network. (As you mentioned on the "other" blog.)

Matt Williams

Ron, I believe Dan's statement, “but worry about a bullet train-style boondoggle in which construction starts only to find out that the rest of the money needed to finish a network isn’t coming.” does a good job of summing up both his opposition and his concern about fiscal risk.

The analysis of two BATF Subcommittees, which Dan appears to have chosen to discard, preferring the words of the consultant's report, indicated that the consultants provided only an incomplete set of options, omitting the public utility approach. That was meaningful on a number of levels. The consultants built $800 per household of Marketing costs into their estimates. The public utility approach would not need to expend those millions of unnecessary dollars. Using the Utility approach that was suggested as an alternative by one of the state's preeminent financial advisors, would change the political approval process under the provisions of Proposition 218. It would also segregate the funds and funding into an Enterprise Fund, separate/isolated from the General Fund. The Water Fund is structured that way. The Sewer Fund is structured that way. The Solid Waste Fund is structured that way. The Utility Service Advisory Commission oversees both the rates for the Enterprise Fund services and the associated service costs.

Another huge difference between Municipal Fiber and Dan Carson's comparison to the Bullet Train is the existence and reliability of the revenues. There is no committed revenue stream from the public/consumers for the bullet train. It is a "build it and they will come" approach. If a Telecommunications Enterprise Fund were established in Davis the revenue stream would be established, with every parcel paying into that fund the same amount or less than they are paying the monopoly suppliers Comcast or AT&T for Internet services currently. In my own personal case, our household is paying $39.95 per month for Comcast's lowest level of Internet service. The monthly bill from the Telecommunications Fund would be less than that, so I would save money every month. That is the antithesis of the bullet train.

In addition, because of the provisions of Prop 218, the rates would be set for five years. No consumer would be subject to the annual haggling with their monopoly supplier in order to avoid a steep price increase.

Those are my big differences.

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