Expanded GRU internet service could create jobs

One idea for federal American Rescue Plan funding is using it to expand Gainesville Regional Utilities' GRUCom service to provide broadband internet service in local homes.

There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding concerning the expansion of GRUCom into providing residential service. The biggest misunderstandings surround how much it will cost and some very large numbers have been tossed around without much context. 

The two studies that have been done so far spell out bottom-line amounts, but the real determining factor is how the project is carried out. Since GRUCom already has a working system, the costs should mostly be incremental and done in such a manner as to minimize the city’s financial risk.

Some broadband proponents are advocating a purely social needs-based deployment strategy where the budget is a secondary consideration. I believe that the most prudent approach is the one that industry currently uses and is commonly called “cherry picking.” This is where the service providers build out their system in neighborhoods where the number of people subscribing to the service is likely to exceed the number needed to break even on the installation costs (generally between a 40-50% take rate).

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I think that the city should start in this manner to provide a revenue stream that will help defray the costs of expansion in the underserved target areas of our community. This is something only a municipally owned system would do, as breaking even would be a very acceptable outcome for this service because it will benefit our entire community. Commercial businesses would not do this. 


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