BY DAVID WILLIAMS
Mississippi will receive $1.5 billion as part of its settlement from the British Petroleum oil spill. A new plan proposes to use a significant portion of that settlement to build a government-owned broadband “fiber ring” connecting several South Mississippi cities including Biloxi, Gulfport and D’Iberville. Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said the total cost of the network, which officials hope will eventually encompass 12 cities and three counties, could top $100 million.
While broadband service is an important tool for students, business owners, job seekers, public safety and health care professionals, spending the BP settlement money on a network owned and managed by the cities is a waste of public funds and puts taxpayers on the hook for future financial exposure. And it is hard to imagine that residents in Biloxi will tolerate the delays the Fiber Ring installation will cause in the current infrastructure projects on the Point.
Consumers in this region already have access to broadband service from private Internet Service Providers (ISPs). In fact, 97 percent of Harrison County has access to broadband service that provides download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second, an impressive speed.
Proponents of the government-owned broadband network argue that the network will provide better prices to consumers, or will drive down private ISP prices. These claims are tenuous at best, and outright deceptive at worst.