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Citizen's View: How we brought fiber internet service to Sandy

Large infrastructure projects have an economic-multiplier effect and are essential for economic growth. In today’s polarized political environment, skeptics on both sides fear these projects will be a drain on government budgets and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

But in 2012, the people of Sandy proved the naysayers wrong with a first-of-its kind project that brought fiber optic, gigabit-speed internet access to Sandy homes. And we did this with virtually zero taxpayer dollars.

How did we do it? Instead of paying for the project with funds from the City budget, we structured the internet service as a utility much like water, sewer, electricity and natural gas. In this model, users may opt in and pay a monthly service fee, much like they would to a private company. Our model is now being replicated by governments across the country.

With the hard work of City staff, City Councilors and my mayoral office, we designed a responsible financing plan to pay for the new system. After completing a study on the likelihood of Sandy voters to opt in, the City took out revenue bonds to pay for the project.

Just as the study predicted, Sandy residents responded favorably to the offering. After one year, the percentage of citizens opting into the service was more than 50 percent. After just 18 months, participation exceeded our expectations, with over 60 percent of Sandy residents opting in.

Thanks to the smart planning and execution of this project, Sandy residents now enjoy some of the lowest-cost high-speed internet service in the country. Because the utility is wholly owned by the residents of the city, the cost of service can be reduced over time after the initial debt service has been satisfied. We are not beholden to stockholders or a board of directors seeking to maximize profits.

The progressive idea that internet access be treated as a municipality-owned service has drawn attention from throughout the U.S. The White House even invited City staff to help develop a blueprint for implementing fiber internet service across the country.

This is an example of the solutions-oriented, out-of-the-box thinking I have brought to Sandy government. By working together, we accomplished something that benefits all of our residents and businesses.

Bill King has been the mayor of Sandy since 2010. A small-business owner for 27 years, he is currently a candidate for Position 4 on the Clackamas County Commission.

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