Letter to the editor: Fiber optics the future of Lake County?Thank you for the information on the Lake County Fiber Optic Initiative and resident survey, provided by your article and Commissioner Paul Bergman’s letter.
Thank you for the information on the Lake County Fiber Optic Initiative and resident survey, provided by your article and Commissioner Paul Bergman’s letter. It is important for all county residents to follow the progress of this issue, and to fully understand the financial and service-related impacts of the business plan ultimately proposed to the county. Consultants, various service providers, government agencies, subcontractors and investor groups will all be potential players in this plan, and regardless of the ultimate financial responsibility, a project of this nature will be very expensive to implement.
Lake County has a total population of around 10,500 persons, not a particularly large potential customer base. Since the revenue to support any unsubsidized fiber optic infrastructure costs must come from subscribers, the financial aspects of the proposed plan must be clearly defined, fully disclosed and well explained to the public. There are a variety of reasons for this, including being sure promoters and investors do not disproportionately benefit from the use of public sponsorship, support and funding. It is also critical to be sure any possible financial exposure to the county and its citizens is acceptable, manageable and makes economic sense.
While having a fiber-based distribution system in place for handling subscriptions to television signals, internet access and telephone services might be technologically ideal, there are other methods available to provide those services. In many cases, those methods might well be more cost effective for subscribers in the short run than a fiber build-out. In the long run, fiber will eventually be installed and used/shared by all existing internet, cable and telephone service organizations to distribute their signals, so it is not like fiber will never come to Lake County. It is important for all of us to understand the individual economic impacts which each citizen of Lake County may face when confronted with the choice of adding new and expensive “public” infrastructure to compete with or partner with private enterprise. The risks are real, but under the right circumstances they may well be manageable.
It should also be made clear this is not going to be an example of “if you build it they will come” from a business development perspective. I have been an executive in the high technology industry for more than 40 years, including building information distribution infrastructure for one of the country’s leading domestic and international fast food franchisors. The idea business will rush to relocate in Lake County because we have a fiber signal distribution system is, to put it mildly, a pipe dream. Communications infrastructure is only one of many factors influencing decisions on business location.
We are currently faced with some of the most challenging economic conditions seen since the Great Depression. Government subsidies are not “free,” and money and resources used for purposes which might not make sense for the human and other priority needs of Lake County should not be acceptable to its citizens. As a newly permanent resident of Lake County, I expect this fiber distribution project will be responsibly managed, thoroughly researched and, if approved, financially justified now and for years into the future. If the project can clear these hurdles, some individuals and businesses (but not all) will benefit from its implementation. If it does not clear these hurdles, the County Board should reject the proposal, and quickly move on to higher priorities.
The attention of the Lake County News –Chronicle to the background, specifics and progress of the County’s involvement in the Lake County Fiber Distribution Project, will go a long way toward assuring the public it is being kept fully informed on the possible benefits, participant qualification and experience, and financial viability of this important undertaking.
Mark S. Broin
The Humagen Group