Butler County Times Gazette
  • Funding main concern with new high speed Internet for City of Augusta

  • Funding a problem for the City of Augusta's initial foray into the possibility of high-speed Internet connections
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  • There are a lot of great ideas that never happen because money funding gets in the way.
    That appears to be the case in the City of Augusta's initial foray into the possibility of bringing high-speed Internet connections here.
    Wicked Broadband sent a request for information to members of the Augusta City Council late last month touting "ultra-high speed fiber-optic network" capabilities rivaling Google Fiber and are reportedly 100 times faster than the average American broadband connection.
    Ray Jones, husband of Ward 3 City Councilor Sue Jones, made contact with the company and worked with City Manager Gabe Gonzalez to investigate the city's interest.
    "I talked to them and Gabe (Gonzalez) and the city is just not ready," Jones told the members of Augusta Progress Inc. Wednesday morning. "The funding is the main issue."
    The company reportedly requested about $500,000 up front to begin the process. Jones said Augusta was a perfect candidate for the product because it owns its own electrical distribution network which could be use to support the Wicked Broadband cabling as well.
    Senate Bill 304 was introduced into the Kansas Legislature to prevent deals like this one from happening across the state. Jones said that bill was authored by a lobbyist.
    The bill did not receive a hearing in the Committee on Commerce so it will not go before the entire body unless it is revived.
    Jones touted a similar system the City of Chanute developed as a primary reason that city is growing and has an Amazon distribution center.
    While Jones agreed the city wasn't ready to incur the initial expense at this time, he added API needed to start planning for projects such as this one to avoid becoming stagnant.
    "API is not doing strategic planning," Jones said. "We need to piggy back on what the city is doing. My impression is that this organization has become stagnant. We are a reactive organization. We need to be more proactive."
    Augusta Mayor Kristey Williams, an ex-officio member of API, disagreed.
    She pointed to the group's development of the eCommunity loan program, the westward expansion study and the seven-year recruitment of a hotel chain as ways the group has been proactive in seeking and supporting local business.
    "We don't have any mechanism to find or recruit businesses or market them when they get here," Jones said.
    API Board Member David All said API is a volunteer board with limited funds, and paying an employee to do that kind of work would consume those funds quickly if the group didn't start charging dues or find another source of new revenue.
    After the discussion, Gonzalez told the group the city was working on several plans that would enable API to work with the city in a more efficient way. The strategic plan for the city should be completed in April.
    Page 2 of 2 - Kent Bush can be reached at kbush@butlercountytimesgazette.com.

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