Troutdale chips in for study on internet utility
Six government entities in Multnomah County are participating in a study examining what it would take to implement a high-speed municipal internet service.
The Troutdale City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday, Sept. 11, to contribute $5,850 into a feasibility study that would determine if Multnomah County should implement a fiber-optic internet system as a public utility, and if so, find the best way to establish that service. Troutdale is the last entity to enter into the agreement.
The six participating municipalities are Multnomah County, Portland, Gresham, Wood Village, Fairview and Troutdale.
Michael Hanna, director of the Municipal Broadband Coalition of America (MBCA), requested the funding from the Troutdale City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 11.
"As you may know, 20 million Americans lack broadband (internet) mostly in rural areas," Hanna said. "We want to really facilitate access to broadband."
The MBCA is a nonprofit organization founded to help government entities create their own internet utilities.
The total cost of the feasibility study is $250,000. The city of Portland and Multnomah County will contribute $100,000 each, and the remainder will be paid for by the remaining participants. The price tag was proportionately determined by population size.
The feasibility study will help determine the best source of funding, but most likely it would be paid for by revenue bonds.
"It'd be done in an incremental way, and built out over multiple years," Hanna said. "The six jurisdictions would come together and decide how is this going to be built out in our community."
For example, in the city of Gresham, representatives pitched the idea of creating an innovation hub at the Rockwood Rising development, which would have faster internet than other areas.
"That could really entice businesses to move to that area because it's something that would be some of the fastest broadband in the whole United States," Hanna said.
Rockwood Rising is an Urban Renewal Development project in the heart of the Rockwood neighborhood near the MAX line.
Troutdale City Councilor Randy Lauer asked Hanna who would be responsible for paying to construct the service, or questioned if that was part of the feasibility study.
Hanna responded that the idea behind the study was to answer all of those questions.
"That's why the feasibility study costs $250,000," Hanna said. "It really lays out what are the costs? What are the technical obstacles? What are the opportunities? It goes very in-depth."