FAIRLAWN — The city is more interested in using its FairlawnGig broadband utility to boost the quality of life for residents and attract businesses than to make money, city Deputy Director of Public Service Ernie Staten said Tuesday.
Speaking at the inaugural Great Lakes Connect Broadband Development Conference at the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn, Staten said city leaders look at broadband as an essential service just like roads and sewers.
"We want to raise up the entire community," he said, adding that the city will see benefits through a larger income tax base.
Staten, who oversees the utility and served as a keynote speaker, shared the story of how FairlawnGig got started and provided advice to other community leaders considering whether to start their own.
One of his biggest pieces of advice: "If you don't build it, they are never going to come."
Fairlawn invested $10.1 million to install fiber throughout the city and make high-speed internet service available to all residents and businesses. Staten said last week that FairlawnGig, less than 2 years old, has started to turn a small monthly profit of about $12,000 on revenue of about $130,000.
Gigi Sohn, distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology & Policy and former counselor with the Federal Communications Commission, said Fairlawn is trend-setting for building the system, and many other communities are dying to do the same. Nineteen states still prohibit municipalities from creating their own broadband utility, she noted.
"It's a matter of resources. It's not cheap. And it's a matter of foresight," said Sohn, who also served as a speaker at the event. "I do think we're past the point where people have to be convinced that broadband is important to the economic and social well-being of a community."
Fairlawn and Fujitsu Network Communications, which helps run FairlawnGig, also announced a new 11-week paid internship for University of Akron engineering students.
The program, which begins next year, will involve a student working for eight weeks at Fujitsu in Richardson, Texas, and three weeks in Fairlawn.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.