• 50°

Editorial: Fiber optic risks, rewards

Given that the John Locke Foundation is a conservative-leaning, minimalist-government think tank, it’s no surprise the Raleigh-based group would find much to fault in the city of Salisbury’s decision to set up a fiber-optic cable system. Expecting otherwise would be akin to believing the Sierra Club might endorse open-pit coal mining.
That isn’t to suggest the arguments raised in the foundation’s recent “brief” are trivial or fatally skewed by an ideological bias. In fact, similar concerns have been raised previously, either by skeptics here in Salisbury or in other municipalities that have attempted similar ventures. They include assertions that the city’s projected subscription rates and revenue estimates are overly optimistic and taxpayers will end up paying the difference if the project falls short. There’s also the caveat that in the rapidly evolving field of communication technology, it’s dangerous to put your money on one particular vehicle. These risks are real.
But the crux of the foundation’s opposition centers as much on political philosophy as finances: From the Lockean viewpoint, governments simply shouldn’t be venturing into areas where they may potentially compete with the private sector, such as Time-Warner or another cable or telecom company. Rather than branching out into fiber-optics, the thinking goes, municipalities should stick to the traditional knitting of water and sewer services, garbage pickup and fire and police protection. After all, they face challenges enough in reliably delivering those services while holding the line on taxes and fees.
In an ideal world, that might be the case. In an ideal world, we’d also have cable companies beating down the door (and bidding against one another) to extend fiber-optic to homes and businesses in smaller communities such as Salisbury, which run the risk of being left in the dust of the 21st century information highway. Market forces are a vital part of a capitalistic economy. But market forces concentrate on maximizing profits for investors, not growing a well-wired community with high-speed connectivity to the rest of the world.
Obviously, there are no guarantees and, going forward, city officials need to keep taxpayers apprised of both costs and benefits. City officials say they’ve done their homework and are confident the customers will be there. They dispute the assertion they’ve been led down the fiber-optic path by consultants’ rosey projections. They believe the $30 million project will not only pay for itself but yield longterm dividends by promoting economic growth.
Is that a pipedream or a solid investment in a new form of public infrastructure? When it comes to the direction of technology, nobody has a broadband crystal ball, but high-speed Internet connectivity is increasingly a requirement for many businesses. It also benefits individuals who want the speedy transmission of large quantities of data. That doesn’t necessarily mean municipalities are the optimal providers for small-town fiber optic ó at this point, the track record is thin and spotty. But if this really is the communications equivalent of the interstate highway system, Salisbury can’t afford to be left behind without an on-ramp.

Comments

Comments closed.

Education

RSS superintendent talks district’s future, strategic plan survey

News

Complaints and fines pile up against unpermitted landfill in southwest Rowan County

College

Catawba baseball: Crowd comes out to say goodbye to Newman Park

Lifestyle

History is a great teacher: Farming has helped shape Rowan County

Business

‘A safe place for them’: Timeless Wigs and Marvelous Things celebrates fifth anniversary

China Grove

County will hear request for more tree houses, hobbit-style homes in China Grove

Coronavirus

Livingstone College partners with Health Department to administer 500 Pfizer vaccinations

Education

‘Elite and it shows’: Staff at Partners in Learning at Novant celebrate news of national accreditation

Business

Biz Roundup: Food Lion earns Energy Star award for 20th consecutive year

Columns

Ester Marsh: What body type are you?

Nation/World

The queen says goodbye to Philip, continues her reign alone

Nation/World

Worldwide COVID-19 death toll tops a staggering 3 million

Nation/World

US, China agree to cooperate on climate crisis with urgency

Nation/World

Sikh community calls for gun reforms after FedEx shooting

High School

North Rowan romps into second round of football playoffs

Nation/World

FBI had interviewed former FedEx employee who killed eight

Crime

Gastonia man sentenced for crash into restaurant that killed his daughter, daughter-in-law

Nation/World

Some call for charges after video of police shooting 13-year-old in Chicago

Business

State unemployment rate falls to 5.2% in March

Coronavirus

NASCAR approach to virus vaccine varies greatly

News

Judge rejects Cherokee challenge against new casino in Kings Mountain

Elections

Jackson tops NC Senate fundraising; Walker coffers also full

Local

Kiwanis Pancake Festival serves thousands of flapjacks for charity

Coronavirus

Rowan remains in state’s middle, yellow tier for COVID-19 community spread