Missoula city and county should spend an estimated $10 million to build a fiber-optic network that would help public agencies and businesses that need fast, reliable Internet services, according to a “next generation” broadband study released Tuesday.
Magellan Advisors issued the report, which was commissioned by the Bitter Root Economic Development District. The proposed network would link more than 50 public entities, including Missoula County Public Schools, the University of Montana, health care centers, and city and county facilities.
“How do we deliver 21st century curriculum to kids in our schools without 21st century infrastructure?” said Councilwoman Caitlin Copple, chair of the Missoula City Council’s Economic Development Subcommittee.
A presentation on the full report takes place at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the council’s Committee of the Whole meeting in Council Chambers, 140 W. Pine St. The seed of the report came out of the Economic Development Subcommittee.
As proposed, the city and county together would invest $10 million toward a $17 million system, with the local government funds leveraging other money, Copple said. The local money would be paid through user fees, not taxes, and it would build roughly 60 miles of an “open access” fiber-optic network.
“Everybody has the same chance to use it,” Copple said.
Such a business model has been successful in hundreds of other communities, Magellan’s John Honker said in the release. Major anchors that use the network are charged below-market rates that help pay down the debt.
Other recommendations in the report include streamlining permits for broadband repair and installation and implementing broadband standards into land use regulations.