Municipal Broadband

One of Councilman Nirenberg’s pressing agenda items is a comprehensive digital strategy for the City of San Antonio and, particularly, the expansion of the City’s municipal fiber network. Here is an article that recently appeared in The Rivard Report outlining his views. Below is testimony he delivered to the Bexar County Commissioners Court on Tuesday:

Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today on an issue that has the opportunity to transform our community.

The digital revolution—driven largely by broadband and mobile data deployment—touches every aspect of our lives. As the international economy evolves, so too must our commitment to evolve with it.

Last month, Judge Wolff laid out an aggressive agenda for expanding our burgeoning technology sector, with a commitment to public investment and to helping the private sector create a digital ecosystem.

Last June, I initiated a comprehensive digital strategy for the City of San Antonio in that same spirit. This digital strategy will include specific recommendations on:

  • Accelerating private investment in digital infrastructure;
  • Bridging the digital divide;
  • Expanding mobile data capacity; and, most importantly,
  • Utilizing our municipal fiber network.

Communities nationwide are using publicly owned fiber networks to meet their specific needs. We have unique assets that give our community a unique opportunity. Two decades ago, CPS Energy invested in strands of fiber lining our community. Many of these strands have lain dormant ever since. While state law prohibits the residential sale of broadband service by municipalities, we can provide such service to public institutions.

Imagine connections between our pillar institutions: Bexar County, the City of San Antonio, UHS, UTSA, UTHSCSA, the Alamo Colleges, and our school districts. Such connections have the potential to expand our education and workforce development efforts, improve health care, and attract the bioscience, advanced manufacturing, and cybersecurity companies central to our economic development strategy.

This is within our grasp. Minor capital investments will allow us to upgrade the municipal network so that it can provide the support that institutions would expect of commercial grade broadband carriers. We have made substantial progress in obtaining those investments.

Last week, the City Council approved an agreement that I believe will create a revenue stream that we can dedicate to making technology make government more effective and efficient, including municipal broadband. On Thursday, I will be asking City Council to support additional investment as a line item in the City of San Antonio FY2016 budget.

I share this Court’s commitment to a digitally vibrant community and look forward to forging a long-term partnership so that this dream can become a reality.

I thank you for your consideration of this resolution and urge its passage. Thank you.

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