By Jose Caballero
It’s no secret that when it comes to streets San Diego has a rough ride. We were recently ranked 8th worst in the nation for our roads, costing drivers $843 a year in maintenance costs. Mayor Faulconer has said he will fix them over the next 5 years. However, he’s missing a major opportunity if they just put down new pavement.
In February, the Federal Communications Commission preempted state laws banning municipal internet services, allowing cities, meaning San Diego could build networks featuring lightning fast, gigabit, fiber to the premise (FTTP) service, which would be among the fastest anywhere in the world. This has been done successfully in Chattanooga, TN and Wilson, NC, with other cities from Seattle to Baltimore considering making their own systems.
The downside of a new municipal internet service is that it requires ripping up the streets if you want to put the lines underground. But this is an advantage because we already have to replace our aging and leaky pipes and fulfill the city’s promises for underground power lines, along with fixing sidewalks and roads.
All this will be very expensive, but if we bond part of the cost against internet fees, we can use money that would otherwise be spent on AT&T, Cox and Time Warner Cable instead of relying on tax increases.
A municipal internet service could also attract technology start ups to San Diego from other areas of the state and help keep the graduates of our local universities in the area and boost our economy. It could also allow SDG&E to install smart meters and help cut down on energy waste and meet our climate goals.
Finally, we could connect our libraries, schools and parks to high-speed internet for use by the general public and eventually expand basic service to every San Diego home for free, an option Google Fiber has provided in Kansas City.
A study would be necessary to figure out exactly how much we would have to charge, but a price around $70 has been studied in many areas and found to be a good compromise between adoption and affordability.
We have the potential to lead the charge in the state of California for providing the fastest and most affordable internet, and use that money to help pay for our crumbling infrastructure. Let’s stand as a city and take ownership of our internet and fix our roads in the process. This is our opportunity to have San Diego be the innovation leader we know we are.
Jose Caballero is a candidate for San Diego City Council District 7