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City Council president represents Sandy broadband at White House

Pietzold takes part in broadband-access talks in Washington, D.C.

Just because Sandy City Council President Jeremy Pietzold’s most-uttered phrase through the last week has been, ‘No, I didn’t see the president,” doesn’t mean he’s without bragging rights.

On Monday, Sept. 21, Pietzold participated in a roundtable discussion at the White House in Washington D.C.

Pietzold was invited to represent Sandy, one of five cities involved in the event, in a conversation about findings from the Broadband Opportunity Council and opportunities for governments and organizations to collaborate on creating widespread broadband Internet access. The conference was convened earlier this year by President Barack Obama.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget the details of what I did there,” Pietzold said. “It’s my hobby and passion … To be recognized at this level … it’s just one of those amazing opportunities that I’ve never dreamt of being able to accomplish.”

Upon his return from San Diego, where he and city of Sandy Information Technology Director Joe Knapp accepted the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors’ Community Broadband Heroes of the Year award, Pietzold received an email he thought was a request for a phone conference with parties in D.C.

After realizing it was actually an invitation to join a closed-door, in-person session at the White House, Pietzold jumped at the chance.

“When you’re invited to go to the White House, you go,” Pietzold said with a laugh. “It was quite an honoring and humbling experience.”

Pietzold was one of the Sandy City Council members who saw Sandy through the implementation of its SandyNet fiber-to-the-home project, which provides gigabit fiber broadband access to homes in the community.

The service is nearly at a 60 percent “take” rate, and the city has turned efforts on expanding the service to include connections to the Sandy business district and multi-family dwellings. The program’s success placed Sandy on the national map for broadband access expansion.

On Sept. 21, Pietzold represented Sandy in a discussion on how the White House can support broadband efforts across the country.

Pietzold took part in the conversation alongside representatives from Wilson, N.C., Westminster, Mass., and Lexington, Ky., a city of more than 300,000, as well as stakeholders from other areas of government.

Deb Socia, director of Next Century Cities, a nonprofit organization launched last fall that supports cities in their goals to provide broadband to its citizens, also attended.

“There’s a big conversation in the nation about broadband access. And there are a lot of different ways to do that,” said Sandy City Manager Seth Atkinson. “For (the city), it was just a really exciting event for Councilor Pietzold to take part in. It shows the value in what we’ve done here in Sandy ... because that’s one method, and I think it works.”

Pietzold said he hopes his perspective at the meeting will help make it easier for small communities, including Sandy, to get funding for broadband projects. Eventually, Pietzold would like to see Sandy’s fiber service extend outside the city limits.

“We do have about 40,000 people around Sandy that call it home,” he added. “One thing that I’ve always preached, and said, is that broadband is a utility … just like water, sewer and electricity as an essential infrastructure for our communities.”

In addition, Pietzold was hoping to get Sandy’s name and information out to companies around the nation as a destination for access to cheap gigabit fiber connection.

“To say, Sandy’s a great place to come do business,” he said. “You can come do business here better than you can do it in most all larger cities.”