LAKELAND — If the City Commission decides against starting a publicly owned Internet service utility, it won’t be because of a philosophical disagreement with the idea, commissioners agreed Wednesday.
Lakeland Mayor Howard Wiggs and Commissioner Don Selvage sought consensus from their colleagues following a brief discussion of the “gigabit” issue, in which the city would leverage its existing fiber optics assets to improve broadband connection speeds in the city.
“It’s a philosophical argument nationwide,” Selvage said. “I don’t want staff to do all the work if philosophically there is no way we will make this a (public) utility.”
National business groups have fought the expansion of municipal broadband at the state and federal level. A representative from the industry-backed political advocacy group Florida TaxWatch attended the last fiber optics discussion, and Bright House Networks hired a court reporter to record the meeting.
<p”>Five of the seven commissioners said they would consider creating a publicly owned and operated Internet utility, depending on the results of an upcoming financial analysis and risk assessment.
Commissioners Phillip Walker and Bill Read did not join their colleagues.