The opportunity for an historic investment in Livingston County’s technological infrastructure arrives this week with the first payment from the American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law by President Biden two months ago as part of the COVID-19 relief package.
In total, $56.2 million will pour into the community, with $37.2 million going directly to the county government. The second payment arrives a year from now, and all funds — which can be used for water and sewer or BROADBAND infrastructure, but NOT roads, bridges or other general infrastructure — must be spent by the end of 2024.
I favor building a high-speed, fiber optic broadband network, the idea for which isn’t mine. There are many in Livingston County who knew that a decade ago; then — in the midst of the Great Recession — hundreds of community movers and shakers got together to create a blueprint for “increased and sustainable prosperity of the Livingston County area,” the result of which was “Advantage Livingston: A Plan for Thriving Together in the New Economy.”
One strategy of that plan was getting all of Livingston County access to the internet, and now that decade-old dream could become reality.
How should we achieve that goal?
It appears the Livingston County Board of Commissioners is favoring a quick, easy and cheaper patchwork of a little of this and a little of that, built on a foundation of various carriers via cable, satellite, copper wiring, etc. It would be built on what I call “geezer technology,” and it will cost us in the long run in terms of speed, accountability, and lifespan.
On the other hand, a state-of-the-art, high-speed, fiber-optic broadband would definitely cost more money, but it would truly better serve Livingston County well with lightning speed, the ability to transmit huge chunks of data, and a long, long lifespan.
You really do get what you pay for.
The future is fiber — not wire — and it would be a shame to settle for a mish-mash of access simply because it’s quick and easy. And I’d really hate to see us settle for it if we haven’t done the due diligence of studying and designing a solution that will serve all Livingston County residents and businesses well.
We’ve waited a decade, so allowing time for a committee of technology specialists, communication experts, consumers, community members, elected officials, business interests, and educational representatives to come together and study the possibilities seems like a no-brainer.
We stand at a technological fork in the road. The choice basically is whether we should cobble together a patchwork network on geezer technology — a move that will cost us in terms of speed, accountability, and lifespan — or whether we should zoom gladly into the fiber future.
We need to look before we leap. We can’t make a good, informed decision unless we study it.
I am asking that you take the LivPo’s Broadband Survey. It’s pretty basic, and we will deliver the information we collect to the Livingston County Board of Commissioners.