Price tag for Multnomah County public internet? $1 billion
Multnomah County is considering creating a publicly owned high-speed internet network — with an eye-popping pricetag.
A new report conducted by analysts and engineers from CTC Technology & Energy in late 2019 and the first half of 2020, revealed that for the county to build an internet delivery system to bridge the digital divide, it would cost the taxpayer $1 billion.
Multnomah County Commissioners Dr. Sharon Meieran and Lori Stegmann, along with Joanne Hovis, president of CTC Technology and Energy, presented the study's findings. "It has delineated just how complicated and expensive the idea would be," said Commissioner Meieran of the enormous expense.
Multnomah County has been looking at bridging the digital divide and bringing low cost, high-speed internet to all citizens. The county has now rebranded it "the digital equity gap." In the 12 months since the study was greenlit, the public has become vastly more dependent on the internet for education, work, commerce and entertainment as health safety rules shuttered most live venues and prohibited large social gatherings.
The study suggested a cheaper alternative would be a series of smaller free Wi-Fi hotspots, for just $3 million. Portland tried in 2009 to institute a disastrous Clearwire WiMAX Wi-Fi network using cell phone towers and wastepaper basket-sized antennae perched on light poles. The $500 million hardware was eventually scrapped before the service even launched.
Hillsboro's public fiber network, the $28 million HiLight service, is set to launch in 2020, including in Reed's Crossing in South Hillsboro.
The Multnomah County study cost $250,000. Funding came from Portland, Gresham, Wood Village, Troutdale and Fairview.
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