Fiber For Our Future supporting Tri-City Broadband for Batavia, Geneva, and St. Charles, Illinois

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Committees debate broadband proposal

By Sara Brownell/Staff writer

Two weeks before voters head to the polls to decide whether the Tri-Cities should implement a municipally-owned broadband system, two opposing committees presented their sides of the issue.

A candidate's forum was held March 17 at the St. Charles Public Library where members of the Tri-City Committee for Rational Broadband and Fiber For Our Future debated issues of concern to residents.

Fiber For Our Future, the pro-broadband committee, also held an informational meeting March 19 at St. Charles Municipal Building to discuss the proposed system that, if approved by referendum Tuesday, April 1, would provide telephone, cable and Internet services together on one bill for residents in the Tri-Cities through a fiber-optic network. The cities would own and operate the system like they do with other utilities such as electric.

The same presentation was made in Batavia March 20 and Geneva March 26.

The proposed system would extend the network to every resident and business within the city limits for each of the Tri-Cities. It would not include township areas.

The Tri-Cities broadband system is estimated to cost between $58 and $62 million, which would be funded by general obligation bonds, but it would be divided among St. Charles, Batavia and Geneva based on population and the number of users, according to a broadband feasibility study.

The broadband referendum does not have to be approved in all three cities April 1 for one city to move forward on the project. The user fees would pay off the bonds, so only those who use the services would pay the fees.

However, Fiber For Our Future stressed the benefits of the system even if residents do not use it.

"It keeps us on the map technologically and economically. Even if you don't use it, people around you will. It's good for the Tri-Cities," said John Glenn, a member of Fiber For Our Future, who added it would bring more businesses to the Tri-Cities because of the high-speed Internet capabilities and lower prices.

However, Don Murray of the Tri-City Committee for Rational Broadband said the system is "doomed to failure" and taxpayers will pay the price.

Murray said the competition would force competitors to lower their prices, causing the system to fail.

"When you add price, competition is assured, and I am positive rates will be lowered by the current competitors if this proposal is passed. Then Comcast will wait until the system has failed, and once that is accomplished, up go the rates," Murray said.

In response to Murray's comments, Fiber For Our Future states in an informational brochure that even if competitors lower their rates, the municipalities would win "because of its customer service, as well as the additional future services the utility will be able to provide."

According to the broadband feasibility study, the Tri-Cities would need to obtain 25 percent of the market share for cable, less than 4 percent for Internet and about 5 percent for telephone services to break even.

© 2003 Liberty Suburban Chicago Newspapers

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