By Chris Butler / Tennessee Watchdog
A $40 million municipal broadband network in Provo, Utah, iProvo, was designed to lure high-tech companies worth billions.
Those companies came to Provo, and the city’s economy is thriving because of it.
But these events had nothing to do with municipal broadband, said Brigham Young University economics professor Brennan Platt.
As it turns out, the city doesn’t need iProvo or its ultra-high-speed internet, Platt says in way of a warning to Tennessee residents about the pitfalls of municipal broadband.
“I don’t think municipal broadband was directly connected to Provo’s success,” Platt says, adding the city of nearly 500,000 people is filled with young college graduates with cracker-jack technology skills.
High-tech business officials notice things like that and, as is inherent in a free market, private internet providers already in Provo — Comcast and CenturyLink, for example — deliver the high-speed internet those companies need, Platt said.
“The problem is that whenever government steps into these private industries, thinking they can do it better, it usually turns out they did something people didn’t want or that was overly optimistic by the costs of doing it.”
City officials introduced iProvo in 2004. It failed so badly the city sold it to Google Fiber in 2013. For a dollar.
“I don’t think we would have languished and sat in some type of dark ages of internet silence if we didn’t have iProvo,” Platt said.
“I think we were already moving toward higher internet speeds.”
Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce President Rona Rahlf said Provo’s high-tech companies rely on high-speed broadband.
In an email, Rahlf says she doubts iProvo did anything to improve the city’s economy.
Provo officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment this week…. read more here
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