Peachtree City moving forward on fiber optic broadband network

Peachtree City is taking a giant leap forward technologically with the approval of a resolution to construct a fiber optic broadband network. The move lays the groundwork to install a start-of-the-art fiber optic network for government facilities, with the option of businesses paying for service.
“We recognize this is a big decision, and it is of a visionary nature, but we also recognize that there is a risk exposure as a business model,” said interim city manager Jon Rorie, noting that months had been spent looking at feasibility and developing a business model. “As far as providing an opportunity from an economic development perspective, I do think it is a huge opportunity as we move forward.”
The move is proactive, as the city would be able to get away from the high prices they pay providers and, instead, give themselves a chance to save money and even turn a profit working with local businesses.
Peachtree City teamed up with Community Broadband to develop the feasibility plan and business model. The company has worked with more than 100 cities, including LaGrange, and power companies over 20-plus years. A staff member who has worked closely with the municipal setup in LaGrange spoke highly of Community Broadband and the hands-on approach they can take. He noted that they will be focused specifically on Peachtree City while they create a network, while larger providers like AT&T and Comcast must have a much bigger picture in mind. “That really makes a difference.”
Community Broadband’s President, Allen Davis, shared his excitement over the project. As part of their study, 76 businesses were identified as being potential high-end customers, with a goal of finding at least 12 to become users of the municipal system. Of those that responded to their request, 100 percent said they were not happy with their current providers and were interested in the PTC plan including likely pricing.
“If we had a different experience, I would be standing up here in front of you saying 12 is going to be a stretch. However, we found exactly the opposite to be the case,” said Davis. “I was amazed by that. It’s a surprise to me that the demand was so great, and that the existing customer base out there was so positive about becoming a user. From a pure business standpoint, that gave me a lot of confidence to come in and say I believe we can hit this number and I believe we can exceed this number.”
Peachtree City also starts from an advantageous position.
“This is one one of the smallest cities he’s ever worked with, but, because of what we have here in terms of layout and with so much to be tapped with such a short stretch of wire for such a small investment, that is why he was so excited,” Financial Services Director Paul Salvatore said of Davis’ feedback on the city’s potential investment.
Several citizens expressed interest in the project, but staff and Davis made clear that there are no immediate plans to open the network up to residential users at this time, citing the number of big-money companies already battling it out in that marketplace.
Council member Eric Imker shared the concerns of some in the audience over the risks, but did note that the had calculated the likely risk to a taxpayer at only $30 a year for ten years should the venture fall completely flat.
“When you think of it that way, it becomes a little more palatable,” said Imker.
Council, in general, was clearly behind in the initiative, Kim Learnard saying she was 100 percent convinced it is the way to go, and Terry Ernst saying, “I think it’s the right thing to do, and I’m ready to move forward.”
The unanimous approval of the resolution now paves the way for staff to start working on securing the financing needed to put the project into motion.

Christopher Dunn

Managing Editor Christopher Dunn has been with the Fayette County News since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Victory magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.