Southport Island faces a special town vote on a proposal to build a broadband system for the entire island and borrow $2.4mm to do it. That’s about $7600 in up front cost per household, plus interest, just to build it. In addition, annual operating costs will be managed by a service provider who will charge customers a yet-to-be determined monthly fee to access, maintain and repair this town-owned utility. This 100% transformation is billed as urgent while just 7% of the island are understandably frustrated by no service and some others are “not happy” with what they have.
What has been troubling to this listener is that every question in the analysis of options seems to have been framed to avoid consideration of other options that may be more targeted, cheaper, and expose the town to less risk than owning an expensive piece of technology in this windy place.
Why were we told that the existing high speed line to the library could not be considered as part of the solution (it can)? Why didn’t we put out a request to build just the 7% of the island that is incomplete? Why not consider other options for the 7% including new technologies available today (Sparlink satellite) subsidized by the town at a fraction of the cost of $2.4mm?
This is not a technical debate. And yet presentations have been flooded with technical talk drowning out the common sense and prudence that are a hallmark of Southport town management that keep our taxes low: Do we really believe that “insurance” will make our high maintenance and storm damage costs inconsequential? Do we really believe that the Selectmen won’t be caught in the middle on service issues? Is it Southport’s way to solve a legitimate 7% problem with a radical $2.4mm 100% town owned proposal that remains untested, un-audited, and un-independently reviewed? What’s the rush?
Southporters should vote “no” on May 7; we should focus our urgent attention on the 7% of customers who really do need our help and do a better job at assessing the alternatives for the rest of us.