September 04, 2014
Domed Stadium or Faster Internet? Which Would You Choose?
By Casey Houser
The Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex located in Birmingham, Ala., is home to a number of events throughout the year such as plays and exhibitions, and the owners of the complex and the land reportedly feel that the city needs a domed stadium as well. But one local news source released an opinion piece recently detailing why it believes the city would be better off spending the $500 million on a citywide fiber-optic network.
The latest piece regarding this issue at Al.com, "Municipal priorities: Let's talk about a fiber-optic network in Birmingham", begins by noting what happened in Chattanooga, Tenn., after the city invested in its own gigabit-speed broadband service. Now, it says, anyone in the city can sign up for broadband that is 200 times faster than the national average which, even with that monstrous increase, is still cheaper than AT&T (News - Alert) U-Verse connections in Birmingham.
"The upgrade has had such an impact, leading to an urban explosion and attracting companies from far and wide, that they've started calling themselves 'Gig City,'" the story says about Chattanooga. A related piece in The New York Times reports on the many businesses that have flocked to Tennessee in search of the high speeds, and that other towns such as Lafayette, La., Chicago, Ill., and Springfield, Mo., are completing similar projects.
Al.com says the path to city-wide broadband would not be without struggle. "It's all about municipal priorities," it says, and those priorities specifically would, first off, entail getting the city to prioritize the money necessary to construct a fiber network. In Chattanooga, it cost the city roughly $300 million. Following that, local government leaders must spearhead the project, but Al.com believes this would be tough because of Mayor William Bell's recent letter of support for the Time Warner (News - Alert)/Comcast merger.
Lastly, the city may have a fight on its hands against legislation in the state that stops municipalities from constructing fiber networks. Service providers in the area may also fight against the possibility of construction as they have done in the past. They argue that municipally-owned broadband is anti-competitive, Al.com continues, and the author of the recent column predicts that Birmingham would have to fend off lawsuits similar to those once headed by Comcast (News - Alert) against the city of Chattanooga.
The news source's sentiment clearly lies with the creation of a fiber network instead of a domed stadium. One has the potential to bring in businesses and the other, it says, is a risky venture that hinges on scheduling organizations and events ad infinitum. Al.com will reportedly be continuing its assessment of the situation in the weeks to come, though it is unclear how much of an impact one op-ed will have on the power of an established entity in the city with a revenue stream ready to fund a new stadium.
More Dark Fiber Community Stories