This letter is intended to help county taxpayers decide whether or not to support the board of supervisors’ plan for county-wide implementation of a reliable high-speed broadband enterprise. Two questions are at the heart of this issue – should broadband service be considered an entitlement, that is, a civil right, and should any broadband service be government owned and controlled.

On the first question, the county’s plan treats broadband service as an entitlement.  The county plans to use tax revenue generated from all county taxpayers to provide service to a relative few who reside in the county’s most rural areas.  

To date, the county has earmarked $20 million of taxpayer funds to implement this enterprise, a cost which likely exceeds $400 per taxpayer and funds only the installation cost of the enterprise. (This cost is in addition to state and federal taxes taxpayers have already paid to help fund this enterprise, given as grants to the county.)  

Going forward, there will be additional, permanent costs to the taxpayer to fund the operation, maintenance and upgrade of the enterprise and for increased county staff to manage the enterprise and provide customer service. These costs will likely be seen as increases to your county taxes and your broadband service provider fees.  

There will be another additional cost to county property owners who already have broadband – the potential devaluation of their property value relative to those properties that don’t now have broadband but will get it at no personal cost if the county’s plan goes forward. To make this point, this paper reported in its three-part series on broadband that the governor’s chief broadband adviser estimated a 4 to 8 percent increase in property value due solely to the addition of broadband. 

Similarly, the vice chairman of the county’s broadband advisory committee stated he believed having broadband increased the resale value of his home. And the president of Greater Piedmont Realtors stated that for some buyers, “… (broadband) is a deal-breaking criteria.”  Homeowners who already have broadband will see no such increase in property value and will thus lose value compared to properties that will receive a broadband benefit at no cost.

On the second question, government ownership and control of the broadband enterprise should be understood to bring with it, in addition to the ever-increasing taxes and fees to sustain and grow the enterprise, the potential loss of personal choice of internet content, speed and bandwidth, the potential for additional monitoring and regulation, and the need for 24/7 on-demand county services.  

In other words, the county’s implementation of the broadband enterprise may not be flexible enough to satisfy a wide range of user preferences, needs and support, and taxpayers will forever have to fund the increasing cost of this enterprise with these new limitations, whether they choose to use the service or not. Compare this government business model to a private sector solution, like your cellular service, where individuals contract separately with service providers for the level of service they want for any purpose at any time, if they want any at all, without having to pay county taxes and fees to fund the service.

I submit that broadband is a user choice, not a county entitlement. It is an individual issue, not a county issue. Each of us should have the choice to obtain our own broadband service based on our own individual needs, just as we do with other individual issues, like cellular service, or buying a home that has a great view from a backyard deck, or has a swimming pool, or has broadband. If a property owner wants these things, they should go to where these are available or afford it themselves, instead of asking fellow county taxpayers to provide them.

To summarize, Fauquier County is going down the path of implementing a taxpayer-funded, government-owned and -controlled broadband enterprise for the primary purpose of serving a relatively small rural population who do not now have it. All county taxpayers will be forced to pay for the county’s plan to implement this broadband enterprise, including installation, operation, maintenance and upgrade, additional county staff to manage and service the enterprise, and for some, to absorb a potential loss in real estate value.  

Taken all together, one can expect these costs to grow into the thousands of dollars per taxpayer and to continue to increase over time. Instead, private sector broadband service providers would continue to provide user funded services with no taxpayer funding needed. As a county taxpayer and property owner, I feel taken advantage of by my county government when they ask me to pay for what I believe should be an individual issue, not a county issue. I do not support the investment of county taxpayer funds to implement the board of supervisors’ plan of “Broadband For All.”

Steve Woodward

Scott District

(5) comments

Griffin

Much of this treatise misunderstands the Board of Supervisors' potential actions, but let's gloss over that for the moment because it's silly to discuss whether the plan reduces our choices -- as if we had them!



In pursuit of less government, I am with you, but I must ask: What should we give up? The hand of government brought "entitlements" to rural areas (and others) such as electricity, telephone, free over-the-air television, roads/bridges, airports/ATC and much more.



Let's meet half way: Trade telephone and OTA TV for broadband. That's two for one. We can replace the former with the latter and you get net govt reduction -- we can get voice, video/audio and other data via broadband and trim the hand of govt at the same time.



The bottom-line point: Let's be consistent and remember how we got here, what worked and continues to enable good communities like ours. If we follow your road to its logical conclusion, we're privatizing police and fire -- speaking of which, our good Sheriff Bob Mosier spoke with me before the Board of Supervisors in favoring community broadband solutions.

Ike Miller

Clearly Mr. Woodward has not taken the time to actually READ the Memorandum of Understanding Between the County, Broadband Authority and Datastream / Omnipoint Technology Partners. Mr. Woodward, your description of the County's role in this initiative could not be further from reality! I just re-read the agreement and believe that you are sorely misinformed. Path Foundation, the County and others are providing some TEMPORARY assistance to DataStream / Omnipoint Technology Partners to build out the tower components necessary to begin signing up customers. The County is entitled to a SIGNIFICANT portion of the profits these companies generate to pay back the investment provided by the County and Path. If your assumptions and understanding of the arrangement were indeed correct, (they are not) then I would tend to agree with you. I have been a Casanova, VA user of DataStream / Omnipoint Technology Providers for more than 8 months. The service is inexpensive, delivers excellent speed, reliable and has NO data cap! I encourage you and the many thousands of users in this County needing reliable high speed internet to pay close attention to the continued positive solutions they provide. Contact your BoS Member and discuss it with them and read the Memorandum of Understanding. I think those two efforts will quell the concerns you may have.

JustinThyme

Hey Steve, this is a great topic and a well thought out and well written opinion. I hope this piece stays on top for a few days while I and others can take the time to contemplate it further. As a technologist and a conservative with libertarian leanings, I’m inclined to agree with you. On the other hand, many folks in remote areas without adequate internet access have lived there well before the internet age caught up with them and couldn’t have possibly anticipated its arrival. And it’s also clear that without internet access (even though there are many non-broadband options), it is very hard to function in today’s world. I need to research how the Ma Bells strung copper to every household to enable the telephone and who paid for that as well as all the pros and cons associated with those decisions. I also need to more fully research the non-broadband options before I can give you the definitive “thumbs-up.” So please, bear with me.

Jean Lowe

Except for Justin Thyme, I think this discussion has been framed in the wrong terms. This is not about whether we favored urbanites should have to pay for broadband for our rural neighbors, it is about what kind of community we want to live in - prosperous, educated, connected or not. Look around the country - regions with widespread broadband service are very prosperous. They are thriving. They attract resources.

Areas without fall behind the times. What does widespread prosperity require? Communication, access to information, connection with others, and education at a minimum. We all prosper when our neighbors prosper. Entrepreneurs can establish businesses in their homes, children can do their school work at home without going to the nearest fast food outlet. Farmers can take advantage of the latest technology and information to farm in the most productive and least destructive manner. Elders are not as isolated from others and can continue to live at home rather than in special homes. Prosperity doesn't just go to individuals but to communities and regions. As they flourish, they will contribute more to the general welfare. This is an investment, not an expense.

Griffin

Agreed. At the moment, we are entering the third day of a Verizon outage affecting many customers, business and residential. Apparently, a four-foot conduit was crushed by a power company pole inside a manhole that they claim is still full of water after two days. Our business pays over $350 mos for 1.5 mbps (yes, I repeat, one point five mbps) data and over $250 for two voice lines. None is reliable, all on a "chronic" ticket. This is unsustainable as a business environment in large part due to under-staffing, under-provisioning and over-charging. Fauquier is not fit for modern business. We must invest and upgrade if we want to support let alone attract businesses. let alone school children, medical access and normal communications.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.