How to build a new economy — invest in broadband | Arkansas Blog

Monday, April 4, 2016

How to build a new economy — invest in broadband

Posted By on Mon, Apr 4, 2016 at 9:21 AM

FAST COMPANY: Chattanooga's municipal Internet service can deliver a gigabit of information per second for $70 a month. Arkansas law prohibits any city from trying that here.
  • FAST COMPANY: Chattanooga's municipal Internet service can deliver a gigabit of information per second for $70 a month. Arkansas law prohibits any city from trying that here.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this morning reported on Arkansas's general lag in Internet speeds.

The article mentioned in passing some long-standing interests of mine.

* CHATTANOOGA: It is booming with tech startups because

1) The municipal power company used a bond issue and Obama stimulus money to invest in a smart grid electrical system and Internet service 50 times faster than the U.S. average. Also in Chattanooga, private investors and foundations have contributed to both the venture capital and development projects that have set the city on fire. (Foundations earlier provided the basis of dramatic investments in cultural amenities in Chattanooga.) In Little Rock, we used our tax money to buy some buildings for tech startups. Private capital has been small to non-existent in Little Rock to date. Philanthropic investment ? Here, taxpayers actually gave their money to rich people to buy their old buildings.

Little Rock could have done something like investing in a fiberoptic system, but....

* THE ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE: Controlled by cable TV and telecom interests, it  passed a law PROHIBITING cities from getting into the broadband business. Because, see, the private companies can do the job better for less. Right? That's why Internet is so speedy here and so cheap. (CLARIFICATION: A political consultant says cities with municipal utilities still can get into the broadband business, but that doesn't include Little Rock. North Little Rock, however, could emulate Chattanooga if it chose.)

Here's just one article from 2014 on the Chattanooga miracle. It will not be happening here without venture capital, philanthropy and a sea change at the Arkansas legislature. Gov. Asa Hutchinson's newly trained coders at lest have to drive only seven or eight hours to find work.

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