Loma Linda, a town of 20,000 residents wedged between Riverside and San Bernadino in Southern California, says it was the first city in the U.S. to mandate a building code for residential and commercial structures to include fiber optics.
Now the city is building out a network that brings speeds of 5Mbps, 10Mbps and 15Mbps (symmetrical) to residents and businesses at $30, $50 and $100 per month. This week I watched a web presentation from Loma Linda CIO James Hettrick over my $30 2Mbps DSL connection and dreamed of higher speeds.
Clearly, fiber is more expensive than municipal WiFi networks that are cheaper to build. But Loma Linda’s network makes one think about the benefits of cities investing in broadband with the idea of emphasizing the public good, rather than short-term profits.
No, I didn’t just become a hippie — while the private sector has the money and know-how to deploy WiFi and fiber networks, they don’t necessarily have the cities interests at heart. They are beholden to their shareholders.
Hettrick’s presentation reiterated to me the greater benefits of broadband – education, decreasing the digital divide, and attracting tech companies to the area. Of course in some cases the expense won’t be worth the investment, and it’s probably too early to declare the project a success. Hettrick said the city’s fiber plan will cost $41 million, and over a period of 10 years will make back $45 million in revenues. The only people who would see that as a good investment are the citizens of Loma Linda.