Local governments across the Rio Grande Valley are wisely prioritizing high-speed internet as they consider ways to invest American Rescue Plan funds to improve their communities.
This money – roughly $10 billion slated for our region – represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it is imperative that local leaders making these decisions look well into the future to ensure the way they’re spending this money is the right way.
At the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, we believe that local governments should spend money wisely and collaborate with proven providers to deploy a comprehensive broadband solution that includes the “middle mile” and the “last mile” of the network. Leveraging funds that are available to local governments, in collaboration with additional capital and construction invested by private internet service providers, who have a track record of customer service and network reliability, ensures that citizens get the reliable broadband that is now deemed essential without putting the city on the hook for future costs to maintain, upgrade and secure the network.
Case Studies from around the State of Texas, such as in the City of Amarillo and the County of Sabine, prove that the right choice to maximize broadband deployment and minimize future upkeep on the taxpayer’s pocketbooks was to partner with proven internet providers. In both cases, the government entities were able to maximize the reach of fiber into areas of the community that were not served, while not having to budget future resources such as staff and money to deliver reliable infrastructure that is deemed essential in today’s age. This Public-Private-Partnership allowed these governmental entities to continue to focus on the core services that are expected by their citizens.
Voters in the Rio Grande Valley overwhelming oppose the idea of their local government using taxpayer dollars to build, own and operate a high-speed internet network that doesn’t connect a single residence. In a survey commissioned by AT&T, seven out of 10 respondents prefer local government use federal tax dollars to partner with a proven private sector provider to deliver a high-speed internet network that serves all of us – versus a network built by local government that only serves local government.
Not only are internet networks expensive to build, but they are also expensive to maintain and fix in the event of damage from fiber cuts or even natural disasters like hurricanes. That’s why it makes more sense for private sector companies to assume the cost and risk of building these networks. Government entities should not undertake that ongoing maintenance and repair expense, which will continue long after these federal dollars are gone. Doing so would shift the financial responsibility of these networks to local taxpayers.
Given serious cybersecurity threats today, it’s also vital that internet networks be safeguarded and held to the highest standards possible. An established and experienced private-sector internet provider is equipped to ensure this level of security and is held accountable for its work by federal regulators.
When people understand that a government network would only connect government buildings and not homes and businesses, the support for public-private partnerships grows to 71 percent among those surveyed. That is not surprising. Valley residents know there is a real need for improved connectivity for everyone, and they support the idea of local government partnering with an experienced private sector provider to deliver the internet services residents and businesses need without any risk to taxpayers.
At the RGV Partnership, we agree 100 percent. Let’s leave a complex, challenging and ever-evolving network like high-speed internet to experienced providers. Let’s allow government to focus its attention on other needed priorities.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Daniel Silva, president and CEO of The Rio Grande Valley Partnership, the Valley’s regional chamber of commerce. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Silva (pictured above) can be reached by email via: [email protected]
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